In Paul v. Enhanced Recovery Company, the plaintiff received two letters from a debt collector concerning the same debt, about 40 days apart. The letters were identical, except for the dates and the amount of the settlement offers – the first contained an offer of $1,375.42, while the second offer was $1,277.17.
In addition to a validation notice required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and other state law disclosures, each letter contained four different addresses: (1) the signature line contained a correspondence address; (2) the enclosed payment slip contained an address for mailing payment, (3) as well as a different return address for the debt collector (with instructions not to send correspondence to that address); and (4) on the back of the letter was the corporate information for the debt collector, which included a physical address.
The plaintiff sued the debt collector in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleging violations of the FDCPA, specifically Section 1692e (prohibiting false, deceptive, or misleading representations) and Section 1692g (requiring validation notices).
The plaintiff claimed that because there were four addresses on each letter, it was unclear which address should be used to send payment and which should be used to send written disputes. The plaintiff further alleged that the validation period was unclear because both letters provided a thirty-day validation period. The plaintiff also claimed that the formatting of the letter, which placed the validation notice near the bottom of the page with a note to “see the reverse side of this letter for important notices concerning your rights,” would make a least sophisticated consumer think the preceding paragraph was “neither important not contained any rights.”
The debt collector filed a motion to dismiss all claims, which the court granted.
As to the multiple validation periods, the court explained that there is nothing in the FDCPA that prohibits a debt collector from extending the validation period beyond the statutorily required 30 days. And in that situation, a least sophisticated consumer would not find it “deceitful or false” if he were offered “additional time to exercise his right to obtain validation of the debt.” The court also did not find the placement of the validation notice problematic, noting that a “least sophisticated consumer is expected to read the front page of the letter that clearly contains the validation notice.”
Finally, the court did not find the inclusion of multiple addresses misleading because of the additional instructions or information that accompanied each address. For example, underneath one address, the letter read, “Send Correspondence to.” Under another, it stated, “Please do not send correspondence to this address.” Under another, it provided, “Our Corporate Information is.” Thus, “when reading the letters in their entirety,” the least sophisticated consumer “would understand that each address has a different purpose.”
The court was careful to distinguish the facts before it from those in another case in the same district, Pinyuk v. CBE Group, Inc., No. 17-CV-5753, 2019 WL 1900985 at *7 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 29, 2019), in which a plaintiff was granted leave to amend based on a finding that a proposed amended complaint stated a plausible claim that a least sophisticated consumer would be “without clear direction as to where to mail a written request” when confronted with three addresses in a debt collection letter. In the instant case, however, the court found that the letters did provide “clear direction as to which of the four addresses should be used for payment and for correspondence,” making it “implausible that the plaintiff would be confused by the inclusion of multiple addresses.”