Score one for the least sophisticated debtor. A District Court judge in New Jersey has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act when it sent a letter to the plaintiff offering to delete the debt tradeline if the plaintiff made two payments equaling 45% of the balance owed.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Dabbah v. Jefferson Capital Systems can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter in relation to an unpaid wireless bill of $502.22. The title of the letter was “Resolve Your Debt For Less Than The Full Balance” and included the following statements.
You can resolve this account with 2 monthly payments of $112.99 which represents approximately a 55% savings …. We will request the credit bureaus delete the Jefferson Capital, LLC tradeline approximately 30 days after the final payment has been posted that resolves the account as paid in full.”
The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letter violated Sections 1692e and 1692f of the FDCPA because the last line of the statement had two possible meanings — the the tradeline would be deleted if the two discounted payments were made or that the tradeline would be deleted only if the entirety of the debt was paid off.
Even an unsophisticated consumer would not be confused by the contents of the letter, wrote Judge Michael A. Shipp of the District court for the District of New Jersey. The letter qualified that the final payment would resolve “the account as paid in full.”
“The reader can infer, therefore, that the final payment is not one that pays the owed debt in full but one that resolves the settlement amount,” Judge Shipp wrote. “When reading the Letter as a whole, the least sophisticated debtor would not understand the last line of the Letter as requiring the amount of the debt to be paid in full for the tradeline to be deleted.”