It probably took a little while longer than everyone expected, but a class-action lawsuit has been filed against a collection agency for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because the Model Validation Notice it sent had the wrong scissors icon on it, among other issues.
A copy of the lawsuit in the case of April v. Financial Outsourcing Obligations, Ltd. (FOOL) can be accessed by clicking here.
The complaint also alleges the defendant violated the FDCPA by not using the same time zone notation that was included on the Model Validation Notice, and using circle bullet points instead of square ones on the tear-off coupon portion of the notice.
Many in the industry had wondered the extent to which consumers would scrutinize Regulation F’s Model Validation Notice for any changes that were made by a collector, and then use those changes as the basis for a lawsuit.
The plaintiff received a Model Validation Notice from the defendant in late March, informing her of an unpaid medical debt. The tear-off coupon was indicated by the use of dashes and a scissors icon to indicate where the consumer should cut the coupon so it could be sent back to the defendant. But instead of scissors that were shaded in (✃), the scissors on this MVN were outlined (✄).
“Defendant’s reckless lack of adherence to the Bureau’s approved icon caused the Plaintiff to be confused, and become upset,” the complaint alleges. “Plaintiff had every intention of paying the debt, but the different icon that was used caused her to be uncertain whether the debt was legitimate. By not paying the debt, Plaintiff’s credit score was negatively impacted and her repeated inspection of the icon led to her suffering a severe paper cut, which needed to be treated at a local emergency room, at a cost of $17,289.”
The issue with the time zone notation is that Daylight Savings Time had gone into effect when the Model Validation Notice was mailed, meaning the defendant would have been incorrect to use the EST that was included in the Model Validation Notice. By using the correct EDT given that Daylight Savings Time was in effect, the defendant has now been accused of misleading the plaintiff in an alleged violation of the FDCPA.