The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals continues to contribute to the case law defining which violations of procedural statutes constitute an injury-in-fact under Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547, 194 L.Ed.2d 635 (2016).
In Macy v GC Services Limited Partnership, it holds that Plaintiffs alleged sufficient concrete harm to satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement for standing where the defendant debt collector’s letter omitted to inform the plaintiffs, credit card holders, that it was obligated to provide certain information only if Plaintiffs disputed their debts in writing. See 2018 WL 3614580 (6th Cir. July 30, 2018).
At issue was the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act’s requirements that a debt collector provide a consumer with a notice that contains:
(4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within [a] thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and (5) a statement that, upon the consumer’s written request within [a] thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a) (emphases added).
The Defendant’s letter omitted to mention the writing requirement, instead simply stating, “if you do dispute all or any portion of this debt within 30 days of receiving this letter, we will obtain verification of the debt from our client and send it to you. Or, if within 30 days of receiving this letter you request the name and address of the original creditor, we will provide it to you in the event it differs from our client, Synchrony Bank.”
The Sixth Circuit held, “Assuming arguendo that the language of GC’s letters constitutes a procedural violation of the FDCPA, Plaintiffs have demonstrated a sufficient ‘risk of real harm’ to the underlying interest to establish concrete injury without the ‘need [to] allege any additional harm beyond the one Congress has identified.’ Spokeo, 136 S.Ct. at 1549.”
The harm arises from the fact that the relief available under Section 1692g(b) is explicitly dependent upon the consumer putting her notice or request in writing: “If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period ….”
The Sixth Circuit found, “GC’s letters present a risk of harm to the FDCPA’s goal of ensuring that consumers are free from deceptive debt-collection practices because the letters provide misleading information about the manner in which the consumer can exercise the consumer’s statutory right to obtain verification of the debt or information regarding the original creditor.”
The Court concluded that having alleged such procedural violations, Plaintiffs were not required to allege ‘any additional harm’ to demonstrate the concrete injury necessary for standing.