A District Court judge in Ohio has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it included a reference to its state license number in the signature line of a collection letter.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Washington v. Merchants Credit Guide Co., can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant, which is based in Illinois. The letter was signed:
Ohio General Business License #1597625
MERCHANTS’ CREDIT GUIDE CO.
The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letter violated 1692e and 1692f of the FDCPA by using false, deceptive or misleading representations and unfair and unconscionable means to collect on a debt. The plaintiff’s argument is that the inclusion of the line “Ohio General Business License #1597625” when the company is based in Illinois is a violation of the FDCPA because it could mislead a least-sophisticated consumer into believing “that the letter was authorized or approved by the State of Ohio.”
In looking at the precedents Sheriff v. Gillie and Bednarski v. Postestivo & Assocs., Judge Jeffrey Helmick of the District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division, determined that the letter does nothing more than “identify Defendant as a debt collector, located in Chicago, Illinois, and licensed in the State of Ohio.”
Taking a line from the Sheriff ruling, Judge Helmick noted that the letterhead portion of a letter is for identifying the principal and the signature block is for naming the agent.
“Contrary to the letters at issue in Sheriff and Bednarski, neither the letterhead nor the body of the letter suggest Defendant is acting under any government authority,” Judge Helmick wrote. “Further, the signature block does not represent Defendant as a debt collector ‘to’ or ‘for’ the State of Ohio.”