Author Topic: Account Numbers on Envelope Constitute FDCPA Violation (3rd Circuit Court)  (Read 520 times)

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Stormcrow

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In a case that has the ACA up in arms, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned an earlier District Court ruling in the case of Douglass v. Convergent Outsourcing. The case centered around the plaintiff's assertion that account numbers visible on the envelope or through a glassine envelope window constituted a violation of the FDCPA's Section 1692f8's limitations on symbols and language visible on the envelopes debt collectors send to consumers.

Convergent asserted that the symbols constituted a meaningless string of letters, numbers, and codes that revealed nothing about Douglass's status as a debtor.  The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania agreed with Convergent's argument that internal account numbers constituted "benign language" and granted summary judgement to the collection agency.

Douglass appealed the ruling to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals came to a different conclusion, writing that:

Quote
We need not decide whether 1692f8 contains a benign language exception because even if such an exception
existed, Douglass’s account number is not benign

and

Quote
the account number is not meaningless—it is a piece of information capable of identifying Douglass as a debtor. And
its disclosure has the potential to cause harm to a consumer that the FDCPA was enacted to address.

The Court of Appeals ruled in Douglass's favor, overturning the summary judgement. Convergent pushed to have the case reheard, but the Third Circuit refused last fall.

The upshot is that for debtors in the Third Circuit, a collection envelope with visible account numbers (either on the envelope of through the glassine window) violates the FDCPA. I've already seen an uptick in FDCPA cases filed for this reason in the local courts. This will probably be short-lived, as JDBs, CAs, and attorneys have largely removed the visible account numbers in recent correspondence.

The ruling is here: http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/133588p.pdf
« Last Edit: February 08, 2015 01:58:34 AM by Stormcrow »