Judge Certifies Class in FDCPA Suit Over Credit Reporting Language in Letter

A District Court judge in New Jersey has certified a class action Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case against a defendant accused of violating the statute because of a discrepancy in the amount of time it waited before reporting debts to credit reporting agencies and the amount of time it gave consumers to respond to its letters.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Church v. Collection Bureau of the Hudson Valley can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant which included the following statement:

Our records indicate there is still a balance on this past due account. Please respond to this letter within seven days or we may take additional collection efforts.

The creditor shown above has authorized us to submit this account to the nationwide credit reporting agencies. As required by law, you are hereby notified that a negative credit report reflecting your credit record may be submitted to a credit reporting agency if you fail to fulfill the terms of your credit obligations.

The plaintiffs allege that the statement is misleading because the defendant “never intended to report the debts to credit reporting agencies within seven days of the letters’ receipt, as [its] policy was to report debts ‘approximately sixty (60) days from placement absent contract instructions from its client.” The suit seeks to include either anyone in New Jersey who owed a debt to a specific healthcare creditor or anyone living in a specific ZIP code who owed a debt to a different creditor.

The letter in question was sent to 984 individuals, meeting the numerosity component for certification. Because all members of the class share the same claim — an alleged violation of Section 1692e of the FDCPA — the commonality and predominance components of certification as well. Judge Susan D. Wigenton of the District Court for the District of New Jersey similarly ruled the typicality, adequacy, ascertainability, and superiority components were met as well and certified the class.

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