On November 29, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted summary judgment in favor of a debt collector (defendant) under the FDCPA, holding that the defendant’s collection letter was not misleading.

According to the court’s order, the plaintiff and the defendant established a payment agreement over the phone, during which the representative mentioned to the plaintiff that the interest rate on the loan would be lowered to 5.99 percent, and that failure to make any of the 11 monthly payments could render the agreement void. Shortly after, the plaintiff received a letter from the defendant that conveyed essentially the same information. 

The defendant also provided the plaintiff with billing statements, including a statement indicating $11.14 in accumulated interest during the initial month in the payment plan. Additionally, the defendant sent the plaintiff a collection letter that outlined the monthly payment and total balance due. The collection letter contained a warning that interest, late charges, and other charges that may vary from day to day could result in a greater balance than the amount plaintiff owed as of the date of the letter. The plaintiff argued that the warning was contradictory to the concept of “fixed” payment plan, and thus was deceptive and misleading in violation of Section 1692e.  

The court noted that it had previously dismissed an FDCPA case against the same defendant using similar language in the context of a debt settlement. In that case, the defendant provided both a disclaimer and the settlement offer, and the court held that including both in the same communication “does not automatically render the letter misleading ... [d]efendant accurately and unambiguously conveyed the agreed-upon monthly payment, total balance, and APR.” The court also reasoned that holding debt collectors liable for violating the FDCPA in such instances might discourage them from proposing debt settlement plans to consumers. 

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