A District Court judge in New Jersey has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss on the grounds the plaintiff lacked standing to file a class-action lawsuit accusing the defendant of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in relation to an identity theft disclosure that was made in a collection letter.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Perez v. I.C. System can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant that included a standard validation and dispute notice. Underneath that disclosure was a statement that read, “If you feel you are or have been the victim of Theft of Identity, please call AT&T directly” and did not provide any contact information for AT&T. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the identity theft disclosure violated Sections 1692e and 1692g of the FDCPA because being a victim of identity theft is a valid basis for disputing a debt and obviates the defendant’s obligation to accept disputes from the recipients of the letter.
The defendant argued that the plaintiff did not allege to have suffered any “negative consequences” from the alleged violation — such as reporting that he was the victim of identity theft to AT&T. In fact, as is the case with many standing arguments, the plaintiff took no action whatsoever after receiving the letter, other than to file his lawsuit against the defendant.
“The right to dispute the validity of a debt is undeniably an important one, but Perez has not alleged that he was denied that right as a consequence of I.C. System’s misleading letter,” wrote Judge Kevin McNulty of the District Court for the District of New Jersey, who did give the plaintiff the opportunity to amend his complaint to add any allegations related to concrete injuries that may have been suffered.