A District Court judge in New York has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act class-action, ruling that the lack of a date on a Model Validation Notice is not a violation of the statute and is not confusing to the least sophisticated consumer.
The Background: The plaintiff received an undated Model Validation Notice from the defendant. The notice included an itemization table, which informed the plaintiff that “Between April 20, 2020, and today:” no interest or fees were charged and added to the debt and that the “Total amount of the debt now” was $9,971.23.
- The letter also informed the plaintiff that he could dispute the debt through December 20, 2022.
- The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the lack of a date made the notice seem “illegitimate” and failed to provide a date of reference that could be used when reading “today” and “now” in the itemization table.
- The plaintiff alleged he spend time and money to determine the proper response and that because of the alleged misrepresentation, money that could have been used to pay down the debt was spent elsewhere.
The Ruling: The plaintiff accused the defendant of violating Sections 1692d, 1692e, 1692f, and 1692g of the FDCPA, but Judge Vincent L. Briccetti of the District Court for the Southern District of New York didn’t see it the same way.
- On the 1692d claim, sending one undated notice to the plaintiff “plainly fails” to rise to the level of being harassing, oppressive, or abusive, Judge Briccetti ruled.
- On the 1692e claim, Judge Briccetti also agreed with the defendant that there were no material misleading representations in the notice.
- “Here, the Letter stated the dollar amount of debt owed as of ‘now,’ and gave plaintiff until December 20, 2022, to dispute the debt,” Judge Briccetti wrote. “Therefore, the only reasonable interpretation of the Letter was that it was sent a relatively brief period prior to December 20, 2022, and the amount of plaintiff’s debt has remained unchanged since April 20, 2020.”
- On the 1692f claim, the judge agreed with the defendant that a least sophisticated consumer would not be confused by the lack of a date on the notice.
- Finally, there is no requirement under 1692g that a letter have a date.
- One small chink in the armor is that Judge Briccetti disagreed with the defendant that all the plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed because of the Model Validation Notice’s safe harbor, saying that the safe harbor only applies to violations of Regulation F, not of the FDCPA.