Judge Grants MTD in FDCPA Overshadowing Case

A District Court judge in California has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because the content in a collection letter overshadowed the validation notice in the same letter.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Robertson v. AllianceOne Receivables Management can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant in regards to an unpaid retail credit card debt. The letter said, in part:

The above referenced account has been referred to our office . . . for collection. Any written correspondence may be mailed to the address above. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY ALL OF THE IMPORTANT DISLOSURES PROVIDED BELOW.

The Minimum Amount Due of $238.00 is an amount that will bring your account to a current status and stop collections (unless your account goes past due in the future), if paid by 05/28/2019. The account would then be returned to our client, the creditor. The Minimum Amount Due is the amount of the debt we are attempting to collect. PLEASE NOTE that the due date of 05/28/2019 for paying the Minimum Amount Due does not eliminate or affect any of your rights described in the IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES below.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion of it, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification. Upon your written request with the thirty-day period, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.

The plaintiff sued, alleging the letter violated Section 1692g(b) of the FDCPA by overshadowing the disclosures under the 30-day validation notice, and Section 1692e(10) by making a false or misleading communication.

The plaintiff’s argument appears to hinge on the phrase “minimum amount due,” arguing that the defendant is “unlawfully” creating an incentive for the plaintiff to bypass the right to dispute the debt by making the minimum payment due and removing the account from collections.

By going the extra mile and including a disclosure that paying the minimum amount does not affect the plaintiff’s rights described in the validation notice, the defendant did not violate the FDCPA, ruled Judge Dale Drozd of the District Court for the Eastern District of California.

“Here, AllianceOne’s notice explicitly informed plaintiff that the minimum amount due is the amount that would bring her account to current status if paid by a certain date and its admonition that this date did not in any way eliminate or affect plaintiff’s validation rights sufficiently explains away any contradiction or confusion that inclusion of the May 28, 2019 due date might arguably have created when viewed in isolation,” Judge Drozd wrote.

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