Ahh, remember the good ole’ days, before Regulation F went into effect? The different types of collection letters and notices were as numbered as the stars in the night sky. Interpreting what those letters meant was — and still is — left to judges across the land. Thus, it was left to a District Court judge in New York to rule on what “charges and fees” meant in a letter. Are they in reference to what was incurred before the account was sent to the agency for collection? Or, are they in reference to what the agency assessed after it was assigned the account? Read on to find out.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Fogel v. Enhanced Recovery Co. can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant, which sought to recover an unpaid credit card debt. The letter listed the amount of the debt as $4,602.25 and had $0.00 for “Interest Accrued,” “Non-interest charges and fees,” and “Payments to Date.”
The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letter violated Section 1692e, 1692f, and 1692g of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because the amount that was owed included interest and fees that were added by the original creditor to whom the debt was owed, and thus the $0.00 reference to charges and fees that were owed was misleading and deceptive.
Ultimately, asked Judge Vincent L. Briccetti of the District Court for the Southern District of New York, whom sent the letter? In order for the charges and fees to have actual dollar amounts and not $0.00, the letter would have needed to have been sent by the creditor, he noted. Because the agency — which was seeking to collect on the debt — sent the letter, the $0.00 was a reference to any charges or fees that were assess or incurred after it had been assigned the account.
And, even if the $0.00 could have been interpreted to mean something else, it would not have impeded the plaintiff’s — or a least sophisticated consumer’s — ability to respond or dispute the account.