NDIL Judge Grants MSJ For Defense in FDCPA Overshadowing Case

A District Court judge in Illinois has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending a second collection letter that allegedly overshadowed the validation notice during the 30-day window to dispute a debt.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Oloko v. Receivable Recovery Services, LLC can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff was sent a collection letter from the defendant on May 8, 2017, seeking to collect on an unpaid debt. On June 7, 2017, exactly 30 days later, the defendant sent the plaintiff a second letter, urging the plaintiff to use her tax refund to pay off the unpaid debt. If the plaintiff was not receiving a tax refund or if the refund was not enough to pay off the balance of the debt, the letter requested the plaintiff to “call us immediately to work out a solution before further steps are necessary.”

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the second letter violated Section 1692g(a) of the FDCPA by overshadowing the validation notice in the first letter. The plaintiff had contended that the inclusion of a tear-off remittance slip that included the statement: “PAY THIS AMOUNT $250.00” was a violation, but Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, ruled it was not, because both letters had the same remittance slip and the statement did not say that payment had to be made immediately.

The plaintiff also contended that including the “call us immediately” statement made it seem like the defendant was demanding immediate payment. But the statement did not indicate that payment was required immediately, and was “tucked away at the end of the second paragraph of the letter, and, at best, conveys RRS’s desire to expedite payment, which does not amount to a violation of § 1692g in this Circuit.”

The second letter also said that the plaintiff’s account “may have been reported” to a credit bureau as an unpaid debt, which, the plaintiff said, was confusing to a least sophisticated consumer. But, Judge Coleman ruled, an unsophisticated consumer would know that “may” does not mean the same as “will.”

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