SDNY Judge Grants MTD in FDCPA Case Over Who Sent Collection Letter

In what may be a case of mistaken identity or a case of a first-party collector doing its job properly, a District Court judge in New York has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it allegedly sent a collection letter that included the logo, a mailing address, a payment website address, and signature of a creditor, ruling that the plaintiff did not do enough to allege that the defendant actually sent the letter.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Preis v. Firstsource Advantage can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter that was allegedly sent by the defendant. The letter included the American Express logo at the top. Next to the logo was a mailing address that indicated it was for American Express. In the letter, there were instructions to visit an American Express website to make a payment on the debt, and the letter was signed by “American Express Global Collections.”

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letter violated Sections 1692e, 1692e(9), 1692e(10), 1692e(11), and 1692e(14) of the FDCPA because the defendant intended to “masquerade” as American Express to deceive the plaintiff into thinking that American Express, and not the defendant, was attempting to collect on the debt.

But, beyond stating that “[u]pon information and belief, Defendant sent the Collection Letter[] as American Express,” the plaintiff made no other allegations to support his claim that the defendant was the entity that actually sent the letter, noted Judge Vincent Briccetti of the District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiff attempted to use two other cases in which the defendant was sued for essentially the same claim — allegedly “masquerading” as American Express — but Judge Briccetti ruled that the plaintiff did not go far enough in making the connection.

“Had plaintiff plausibly alleged defendant sent the letter, then the complaint may plausibly plead the letter violates Section 1692e by ‘creating a false impression as to its source,’ using a false or deceptive practice to collect a debt, by failing to disclose the letter is from debt collector, or by using another organization or company’s name,” he wrote. “But because plaintiff does not plausibly allege defendant sent the letter, there is no factual content in the complaint from which the Court could conclude a reasonable consumer would misunderstand the letter.”

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