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Douglass v. Convergent Outsourcing

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

April 8, 2014, Argued; August 28, 2014, Filed

No. 13-3588

Opinion

 [*300]  OPINION OF THE COURT

SCIRICA, Circuit Judge.

In this case we are asked to decide whether the disclosure of a consumer's account number on the face of a debt collector's envelope violates § 1692f(8) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Section 1692f(8) limits the language and symbols that a debt collector may place on envelopes it sends to consumers. The District Court held the account number met a "benign language" exception to § 1692f(8) and granted summary judgment to the debt collector. We will vacate and remand.2

On May 16, 2011, Plaintiff Courtney [**2]  Douglass received a debt collection letter from Convergent Outsourcing ("Convergent") regarding the collection of a debt that Douglass allegedly owed T-Mobile USA. Visible on the face of the letter, above Douglass's name and address, was the following sequence of numbers representing Douglass's account number with Convergent: "X-XXXX-XXXX-R241." This number does not refer or relate to her account with T-Mobile USA. Convergent mailed the letter in an envelope with a glassine window. When mailed, the top portion of the letter, including Douglass's account number, was visible through the window. Also visible through the window was Douglass's name and address, a United  [*301]  States Postal Service bar code, and a quick response ("QR") code, which, when scanned by a device such as a smart phone, revealed the same information as that displayed through the glassine window, as well as a monetary amount corresponding to Douglass's alleged debt.

This action was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.3 The complaint was amended to add Douglass as the sole named plaintiff, as well as to initiate a putative class action on behalf of residents of Montgomery County, [**3]  Pennsylvania, who received similar letters from Convergent exposing their account numbers. The operative Second Amended Complaint alleges when Convergent disclosed Douglass's account number, both on the face of the envelope and embedded in the QR code, it violated § 1692f(8) of the FDCPA, which prohibits "using any language or symbol" other than a debt collector's name and address on an envelope. 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(8). Convergent moved for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, contending the account number qualified as "benign language" that § 1692f(8) was not meant to prohibit.

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765 F.3d 299 *; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 16628 **

COURTNEY DOUGLASS, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Appellant v. CONVERGENT OUTSOURCING, formerly known as ER SOLUTIONS, INC.

Subsequent History: Corrected by Douglass v. Convergent Outsourcing, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 19606 (3d Cir., Oct. 10, 2014)

Prior History:  [**1] On Appeal from the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civil No. 2-12-cv-01524). District Judge: Honorable Joel H. Slomsky.

Douglass v. Cconvergent Outsourcing, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110708 (E.D. Pa., Aug. 7, 2013)

CORE TERMS

envelope, account number, markings, debt collection, benign, disclosure, symbols, consumer, debt collector, privacy, window, absurd, debt collection practice, pertain, name and address, prohibits, purposes, visible, exempt, mailed

Banking Law, Consumer Protection, Fair Debt Collection, Communications With Debtors, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, General Overview, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Unfair Practices