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Guevara v. Client Services, Inc.

2011 WL 5082251 (U.S. Dist. Ct. D. N.J. 2011) (Unpublished)

FDCPA — The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act only requires that five specific items be included in an initial letter sent by a debt collector, and none of those items calls for the debt collector to identify the debtor’s account number.

A debtor alleged that a collection agency violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) “by attempting to collect a debt from [the debtor] without furnishing an account number or proof of ownership of the debt.” The collection agency responded that there was no such requirement to include an account number within its communications and that the debtor was incorrectly asserting that the failure to include an account number “constitute[d] a deceptive attempt to collect on a debt, in violation of the FDCPA.” The debtor’s argument was that “the least sophisticated consumer would have been unaware of the intention of [the collection agency’s] letter, which fail[ed] to explain how [the collection agency] acquired the debt at issue.”

“The statute of limitations for claims brought under the FDCPA is one year, and begins to run from the date of the debt collector’s last opportunity to comply with the Act.” Here, the debtor alleged that the collection agency’s “initial communication, dated April 14, 2010, violate[d] the Act.” Thus, according to the Court, the statute of limitations began to run from that date.” The debtor filed its complaint in the New Jersey Superior Court on June 16, 2011, more than one year after April 14, 2010. For that reason, the Court ruled that the lawsuit itself was “time-barred by the one-year statute of limitations.”

In addition, the Court held that the debtor’s argument with respect to the collection agency’s failure to list the account number was unsupportable under the text of the FDCPA. The “FDCPA governs the information which must be included in the initial letter (or a written notice sent within five days of the initial letter) from a debt collector to a consumer debtor.” The relevant part of the Act includes only five items that must be included in such a letter or notice and none of those items called for the debt collector to furnish an account number. Consequently, the Court rejected the debtor’s argument, saying that it could not “find that [the collection agency’s] initial communication to [the debtor] would have been misleading to the least sophisticated customer.”

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