Judge Grants Motion for Defense in FDCPA Case Over Name of Current Creditor in Letter

A District Court judge in New York has agreed to adopt a Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that a defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings be granted after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it allegedly did not properly identify the creditor to whom a debt was owed in a collection letter.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Williams v. Client Services can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant that included the following information in the top-left corner:

RE: CHASE BANK USA, N.A.
ACCOUNT NUMBER: XXXXXXXXXXXX1909
BALANCE DUE: $747.95

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging that using only “RE: CHASE BANK USA, N.A.” was not enough to identify the current creditor to whom the debt was owed, as required under Section 1692g(a)(2) of the FDCPA. Acknowledging that several courts have ruled that using “Re:” when attempting to identify the creditor in a collection letter is a violation of the FDCPA, the Magistrate Judge’s report said the defendant’s motion should be granted because, for among other reasons, the plaintiff failed to identify any other reasonable interpretation that someone other than Chase was the creditor.

Judge Joann Seybert of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York disagreed with the plaintiff’s contention that a similar ruling in Ocampo v. Client Services was not a “rogue” decision.

“Indeed, the least sophisticated consumer would understand that he has a debt with Chase and can match the account ‘with the account number on the letter,'” Judge Seybert wrote. “Moreover, ‘[i]t would be particularly difficult for the least sophisticated consumer to be confused about who the creditor is because there is no other entity even mentioned in the [L]etter, besides defendant,’ and ‘the least sophisticated consumer would be able to infer that defendant is the debt collector, not the creditor.’ “

The plaintiff has appealed the decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

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