District Court rules date on credit monitoring app report insufficient to prove FDCPA violation
On June 24, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee granted a defendant debt collector’s motion for summary judgment in an FDCPA action, holding that the plaintiff did not have enough evidence to prove her claim that the defendant violated FDCPA Section 1692e(8) by failing to communicate that her debts were disputed. According to the order, the plaintiff obtained a copy of her credit report and noticed that the defendant was reporting five debts that she allegedly owed to a healthcare provider. The plaintiff’s counsel sent the defendant a letter disputing the debts. While the defendant did not report to the credit bureaus that the debts were disputed, the defendant received instructions from the healthcare provider to remove all of its consumer debts from the national credit bureaus. The defendant subsequently instructed the credit bureaus to remove all of the accounts from their services. However, the defendant did not verify that the debts were removed, claiming that it did not recall ever having “‘an issue raised as a result of one of the credit bureaus not removing a debt as requested,’” and as such “had ‘no reason to confirm that its instructions to [the credit bureau] had been carried out.’” When the plaintiff checked her credit report nearly three months later using a credit monitoring app, she saw that the debts were still being reported and were not marked as being disputed. The app showed the information to be reported as of a date that was three weeks after the defendant asked to have the debts marked as disputed. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to mark the debts as disputed and alleged that it communicated information to the credit bureaus without identifying the debts as being disputed. The defendant countered, arguing among other things, that it “‘has no control over when or how [the credit bureau] inputs data from [the defendant] or how [the credit bureau] describes the report date of the data that [the defendant] submits to it.’”
In granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the court determined that simply because the app used a date to indicate how current the information was does not mean that information was communicated to the credit bureaus by the defendant on that date. The app report relied upon by the plaintiff “does not indicate that [the defendant] communicated with [the credit bureau] on that date,” the court wrote. “It is simply silent on that question. It certainly gives rise to the possibility that [the defendant] communicated with [the credit bureau] on that date, but a possibility is not the same as probability.” As a result, the court found there was insufficient evidence in the record to support the plaintiff’s claims and it granted summary judgment in the defendant’s favor.