A recent decision out of New York (Yajaira Perez, Plaintiff v. Global Credit and Collection, Corp, Defendant, 14 Civ. 9413) Southern District Judge Colleen McMahon ruled that the visibility of an account number, by itself, does not constitute a violation of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Plaintiff alleges that, because her account number was made visible, defendant violated the FDCPA, which prohibits the inclusion of "any language or symbol other than the debt collector's address, on any envelope" that is sent to a consumer and in which debt-related communications are enclosed. 15 U.S.C. §1692f(8);
In a decision decided July 27, 2015 McMahon stated that the numbers on the envelope (which were apparently visible through a glassine window) were indecipherable to the general public and therefore could not embarrass or harm the plaintiff.
McMahon further went on to state that the eight digit number that Perez found objectionable was "meaningless to anyone other than someone at Global Credit"
McMahon further added that "Even the fact that it is an account number says nothing about whether the plain white envelope contained a debt collection communication, as opposed to a renewal notice, a special offer to consumer, or any of the other myriad junk mail communications that arrive in plain white envelopes with glassine windows on a daily basis in the mailboxes of America."
McMahon stated that she disagreed with a Third Circuit ruling, Douglass v. Convergent Outsourcing, 765 F.3d 299 (3d Cir. 2014). "However, to the extent that Douglass can be read as saying that even benign language that is visible through a glassine window violates the FDCPA, I respectfully disagree."
McMahon stated that the Third Circuit ruling was simply ipsie dixit (latin for he himself said it) and was unsupported by any analysis. McMahon made it clear that she was not bound by the ruling in the Third Circuit and did not have to follow their reasoning.
Mintzer, Sarowitz, Zeris, Ladva & Meyers of Manhattan and David Peltan of East Aurora represented Global. Edward Geller, Esq. of the Bronx represented Perez.