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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

7th Circuit affirms dismissal of FDCPA claims for lack of standing

Courts Seventh Circuit Appellate Debt Collection FDCPA

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On January 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling dismissing a plaintiff’s FDCPA lawsuit for lack of standing. According to the opinion, the plaintiff claimed a debt collector violated the FDCPA when it sent her a collection letter including the following statement: “If you dispute this balance or the validity of this debt, please let us know in writing. If you do not dispute this debt in writing within 30 days after you receive this letter, we will assume this debt is valid.” The plaintiff argued that section 1692g(a)(3) of FDCPA does not specify how a consumer may dispute the validity of a debt, claiming that consumers should be allowed to dispute debts in whatever manner they choose. Instead of determining whether the debt collector violated section 1692g(a)(3) by requiring consumers to dispute debts in writing, the 7th Circuit determined that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue in the first place. The appellate court referenced an observation made by the district court that the plaintiff “‘did not allege she had any doubt that she owed the creditor the stated amount of money,” and that “she failed to allege any injury that flowed from her failure to dispute the debt.” Noting, however, that not all alleged section 1692g(a)(3) violations lack standing, the appellate court stated that in this case, the plaintiff “did not allege injury, because she did not try to show what good a dispute would have done her. She is no worse off than if the letter had told her that she could dispute the debt orally.”

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