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Media Alerts - Courtney Douglass v. Convergent Outsourcing - Third Circuit
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October 13, 2014
  Courtney Douglass v. Convergent Outsourcing - Third Circuit
Headline: Third Circuit Holds Visible Debt Collection Account Number on Envelope a Violation of FDCPA

Area of Law: Federal Debt Collection Practices Act

Issues Presented: Is the FDCPA violated where a debt collector sends a letter to a debtor in which the debtor's account number is visible through the cellophane window on the envelope?

Brief Summary:

Douglass received a debt collection letter from Convergent Outsourcing. The letter had a debt collection account number visible through the cellophane window on the envelope. The Third Circuit held, without deciding if a benign language exception existed to 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(8), that an account number capable of revealing that a recipient was a debtor was a violation within the scope of the plain language of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded to the District Court for further proceedings.

Extended Summary:

Douglass, an alleged debtor, received a mailing from Convergent Outsourcing (Convergent), a debt collector. Through the cellophane window on the envelope, a portion of the debt collection letter was visible. Convergent argued that a plain reading of 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(8) - prohibiting all markings on debt collection envelops except for the name and address of the debt collection and a limited form of the collectors' name - would produce absurd results. Convergent argued that the account number was "benign language" and urged the Third Circuit to adopt an exception for benign language.
The Third Circuit first held that language visible through a window into the envelope fell under §1692(f)(8). Further the Court held that it was unnecessary for the Court to reach the question of whether there is a benign language exception because the account number was not benign. The Third Circuit held that an account number on a debt collection envelope is a violation of § 1692f(8). The Third Circuit distinguished cases in other Circuits that found benign language exceptions by noting that benign language was incapable of violating the privacy of alleged debtors. The Third Circuit reasoned, however, that an account number for a debt collection account could reveal that the named person was a debtor. For these reasons, the Third Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Convergent and remanded for further proceedings.

Find the full opinion at:

Panel: Fisher and Scirica, Circuit Judges, Mariani, District Judge

Argument Date: April 8, 2014

Date of Issued Opinion: October 10, 2014

Docket Number: No. 13-3588

Decided: Vacated and Remanded

Case Alert Author: Philip Jones


Cary L. Flitter, Esq. (argued), Andrew M. Milz, Esq., Sara Ellen M. Hutchison, Esq. for Appellant

Richard J. Perr, Esq. (argued), Ed W. Walton, Esq. for Appellee

Author of Opinion: Scirica, Circuit Judge

Circuit: Third Circuit

Case Alert Supervisor: Professor Mary E. Levy

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 10/13/2014 02:52 PM     3rd Circuit  

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