If a collector sends an unprompted letter to an individual informing the recipient of the steps that can be taken if she is the victim of identity theft, then is the collector therefore liable under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for not providing full and accurate information? A District Court judge in New Jersey has ruled no, granting a defendant’s motion to dismiss a second time.
The Background: You probably don’t remember the details of the first dismissal …
- The plaintiff received a letter from the defendant in regard to an unpaid cell phone bill. The letter provides instructions on what to do if the recipient believes he or she is a victim of identity theft, while also including a summary of the account and a QR code that linked to the defendant’s website to allow the recipient to make a payment online. The plaintiff argued that a simultaneous attempt to provide assistance while also collecting on a debt was false and misleading.
- A District Court judge disagreed and dismissed the case, at which point the plaintiff filed an amended complaint.
The amended complaint floated a new legal theory. The new theory accuses the collector of violating the FDCPA because it falsely represented what the consumer must do to notify the collector that she disputes the debt due to possible identity theft.
The Ruling: Noting that there were no new factual allegations in the amended complaint, Judge Claire. C. Cecchi of the District Court for the District of New Jersey looked at the new allegations and decided they misrepresent the obligations of the defendant in the event of identity theft.
- On the contrary, Judge Cecchi noted, the letter not only affords the plaintiff the opportunity to notify the defendant if identity theft had occurred, it also possibly even alerts the plaintiff to that fact in the first place. There is no affirmative duty to fully explain the details of what happens in the event an individual’s identity is stolen, the judge ruled.
- Similarly to the first complaint, Judge Cecci determined that the amended complaint does not allege any material harm and dismissed the complaint.