Hecht v. Green Tree Servicing LLC
A debt collection letter that states that the "amount due on the day you pay may be greater" may not adequately inform the least sophisticated consumer about the "amount of the debt" owed on the date that the letter was received. In March 2012, the defendant, Green Tree Servicing LLC, allegedly sent the plaintiff, Chana Hecht, a collection letter that indicated that Hecht owed $72,591, as of Jan. 20, 2012. Green Tree's collection letter stated, "Because of interest, late charges, and other charges that may vary from day to day, the amount due on the day you pay may be greater." The collection letter indicated that an adjustment might be required. Hecht filed a putative class action against Green Tree, on behalf of herself and similarly situated plaintiffs, alleging that Green Tree's collection letter violated her rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, because it was susceptible of differing interpretations. "Even if a debt collector conveys the required information, the collector nonetheless violates the Act if it conveys that information in a confusing or contradictory fashion," pursuant to DeSantis v. Computer Credit Inc., a 2001 decision of the 2nd Circuit. Courts may consider whether a communication complies with the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act from the perspective of the "least sophisticated consumer." The defendant argued that the debt collection letter met the requirements of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as long as it indicated the amount of debt owed on a particular date. The District Court found that the language in the collection letter that indicated that the "amount due on the day you pay may be greater" did not clearly inform the least sophisticated consumer about the amount of the debt owed on the date that the letter was received. The least sophisticated consumer might believe she owed no more than $72,591 on the date of receipt. The debt collection letter could be construed as "deceptive," in violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the District Court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss.