Judge Grants MTD in FDCPA Case Over Mis-Spelled Name in Letter

A District Court judge in New York has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss, ruling that it did not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by including additional information in a collection letter that the plaintiff said made him confused about to whom to pay and because the letter accidentally omitted one character from his first name.

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

The plaintiff, Vincent Williams, received a collection letter that was addressed to “Vicent Williams.” Along with the name of the creditor to whom the debt was owed — Synchrony Bank, the letter also referenced the name of the merchant — Synchrony Networks.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letter violated Sections 1692e and 1692g(a)(2) because he is not familiar with Synchrony Bank or Synchrony Networks and because his name was misspelled in the letter.

There is nothing in the FDCPA that requires collectors to use a more familiar name that an individual might recognize when sending collection notices, wrote Judge Cathy Seibel of the District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiff’s argument that a least sophisticated consumer would be confused because the defendant used the official name of the creditor and did not include “common sense, background context that would likely lead the least sophisticated consumer to understand who the creditor is,” is not something required by the FDCPA, Judge Seibel noted. There is no precedent requiring “that a collection letter must include a creditor’s commonly known or recognizable trade name,” Judge Seibel wrote. “Rather, all Defendant was required to do was to identify the creditor clearly and accurately, which it did.” Furthermore, any argument that the plaintiff was confused because the letter identified a merchant as well as a creditor “simply does not give rise to the sort of confusion that would affect a consumer’s decisionmaking about how to address the letter.”

With respect to the typo of the plaintiff’s name in the letter, Judge Seibel wrote that the omission is not the “type of abusive behavior” from which consumers need to be protected. “Even if this minor misspelling would give a reasonable but unsophisticated consumer pause – which is farfetched – the remainder of the Letter set out an FDCPA-prescribed process for resolving any uncertainty,” she wrote.

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