EDNY Judge Grants MTD in FDCPA Case Over Reporting Language in Letter

A District Court judge in New York has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it warned the plaintiff that an unpaid debt would be reported to the credit reporting agencies, ruling that the plaintiff’s interpretation of the letter to be “tortured” and beyond even what the least sophisticated consumer would think.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Teitelbaum v. I.C. System can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant that included the following passage:

This letter is being sent to advise you about an important notice regarding your [NYSEG] account. [NYSEG] is both the original and current creditor to whom this debt is owed. Please see below.

The account information is scheduled to be reported to the national credit reporting agencies in your creditor’s name. You have the right to inspect your credit file in accordance with federal law. [ICS] will not submit the account information to the national credit reporting agencies until the expiration of the time period described in the notice below.

The plaintiff interpreted that statement to mean that both the creditor and the defendant would be reporting the debt to the credit reporting agencies, and accused the defendant of violating Section 1692e of the FDCPA by making a deceptive or misleading statement.

Acknowledging that the least sophisticated consumer standard is not “toothless,” Judge Pamela Chen of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York determined that even a unsophisticated or naive consumer would not reach the same conclusion as the plaintiff. Even though it says the debt would be reported in the original creditor’s name, it was clear who was going to be doing the reporting, Judge Chen wrote. Even a least sophisticated consumer would read the whole letter and see that it says that the defendant is the one who will be reporting the debt.

“In short, ‘only a consumer in search of ambiguity, and not the least sophisticated consumer relevant here,’ would interpret ICS’s collection letter in the idiosyncratic and illogical way Plaintiff posits,” Judge Chen ruled.

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