A District Court judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that a six-digit number referring to a client code on the outside of a postcard constitutes a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and has granted a plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment while also denying competing motions from both sides as to whether the type of postcard used also violates the FDCPA.
A copy of the ruling in the case of McRobie v. Credit Protection Association can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff filed a class-action lawsuit after receiving a mailer from the defendant. The mailer, which was two postcards glued together, included information pertaining to a debt owed by the plaintiff on the inside of the cards. On the outside of the cards was a number that referred back to the original creditor to whom the debt was owed and did nothing to communicate any information about the plaintiff.
The defendant agued that the client code on the outside of the double card was benign and did not violate Section 1692f(8) of the FDCPA, which prohibits using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by mail.
Judge Joseph Leeson of the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said he was “obliged to conclude” that the number on the outside of the card constituted a violation of the FDCPA because it “pertain[s] to [McRobie’s] status as a debtor and [CPA’s] debt collection effort.” Noting the rulings in other cases, Judge Leeson added, “And while this Court is not in a position to formulate a general definition of truly ‘benign’ information, the trend in the case law indicates that the less a debt collector has to do with the creation and use of extraneous information — as opposed to, say, a third-party mail vendor — the more likely it is to be characterized as ‘”benign’ under the FDCPA.”
The defendant attempted to use the bona fide error defense on the other count, arguing that if the two cards became unglued during transportation that there was nothing it could do about it. But Judge Leeson ruled that the evidence put forth by the defendant was not “so overwhelming as to settle the issue,” and ruled that a general factual dispute existed, denying the motions from both sides.