While courts have found that sending a second validation letter within the 30-day validation window is problematic, sending a second letter outside of that 30-day window does not pose an issue, says the Northern District of Texas.
In Ortiz v. Enhanced Recovery Company, LLC, No. 3:18-cv-1347 (N.D. Tex. June 6, 2019), ERC sent a second validation letter to the consumer three months after sending the initial validation notice. The consumer filed a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lawsuit alleging that the letters contained conflicting information, specifically that the validation window in the first letter was “literally false” if the second letter also included the same thing.
The court granted ERC’s motion for summary judgment, finding that there was no problem with this situation. While sending a second letter within the 30-day validation window causes some concern that a consumer might be confused as to how much time remains to request verification, this issue is not present when the letters are sent three months apart like in the instant case.
The court found as follows:
ERC’s mailing of a second letter to Ortiz neither “vitiated the validity of the original notice” nor constituted conduct by a debt collector that could lead an unsophisticated consumer to act to her detriment… Indeed, if the second letter did re-start the period of time that the consumer had to request debt verification, then it only enlarged the consumer’s rights. And if the second letter did not re-start the period of time available to the consumer, then the consumer is in the same position she was before the second letter was sent—she could not feasibly take any action to her detriment in response to the second letter.
This case provides some clarity for debt collectors on when it is okay to send a second validation letter. This is especially important for debt collectors who (1) hold on to accounts for a long time and might deem it prudent to send another validation letter if there has been a significant period of time between collection efforts or (2) work with creditors who might recall and later re-place accounts with the same debt collector.
insideARM reached out to and obtained this comment from Shelly Gensmer, ERC’s Vice President of Legal and Compliance:
ERC works diligently to do the right thing by consumers, including keeping them notified of their rights and treating them with respect. We believe this case helps illustrate that effort. Likewise, we dedicate our efforts and litigation strategies to best impact our industry as a whole. Knowing that many other agencies remind consumers of their rights in subsequent letters, this win means helping tip the scales in the right direction for our peers.