A District Court judge in Puerto Rico has denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued because a collection agency it acquired sent a collection letter to the plaintiff that used some form of gobbledygook to identify the creditor to whom a debt was owed in a collection letter.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Burgos-Rodriguez v. Continental Central Credit et al. can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiffs received a collection letter that sought to recover a debt owed for an unpaid timeshare maintenance fee. The letter identified “VAC VLG@BONVNTR MST ASC PHSE VI” as the creditor to whom the debt was owed. The letter also contained the following disclosure:
“if you notify this office verbally or in writing … this office will: obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgement and mail you copy of such judgment of verification.”
The complaint also accused the defendant of violating the FDCPA because the disclosure implied that a consumer may exercise his or her right to dispute the debt verbally when the statute requires it to be submitted in writing.
The defendant attempted to argue that it was not liable for the actions of the other agency that were done before it was acquired, that the claim was barred by the FDCPA’s statute of limitations, and that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Judge Daniel R. Dominguez of the District Court for the District of Puerto Rico may short work denying the first two claims made by the defendant before turning to the argument that the plaintiff failed to state a claim.
With respect to the name of the creditor in the letter, Judge Dominguez acknowledged that the use of acronyms in identifying a creditor is not prohibited, but only if the creditor usually conducts business using that acronym. Unfortunately for the defendant, “VAC VLG@BONVNTR MST ASC PHSE VI” does not meet that standard, Judge Dominguez ruled.
Judge Dominguez also disagreed with the defendant’s assertion that the interpretation of the FDCPA “reads the in-writing requirement as a sufficient but not necessary condition to exercise the right.”
“Requiring written communications to enforce’ the validation right will promote mote efficient adjudication of this issue in the future, where the Court will be able to rely on tangible evidence of communication rather than potentially conflicting accounts of what was discussed orally,” Judge Dominguez wrote. “Allowing an oral communication to trigger invocation of the validation right opens the door to malicious behavior from debt collectors.”