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CA Writes Very Confusing Letter

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Chuway v. National Action Financial Services, Inc., (C.A.7 (Ill.))

April 2, 2004: Debt Collection - Consumer established prima facie case that dunning letter was confusing and violated FDCPA.

A dunning letter sent by a debt collector to a consumer, which stated the balance due but also listed a telephone number for the consumer to call to obtain her most current balance information, was unclear, and the consumer, who submitted an affidavit in which she plausibly attested as to her own confusion, established a prima facie case of a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Seventh Circuit has ruled. Although the consumer presented no survey to support her contention that the letter was confusing, it was apparent from reading the letter that it was unclear, as, the Court of Appeals noted, the entire appellate bench was confused about the letter until the debt collector's lawyer explained its meaning at oral argument. While the district court thought that the Court of Appeals had established a rule that, unless a letter contains an outright contradiction, a plaintiff must present evidence outside of the letter itself and her own testimony to meet her burden of proof, the Seventh Circuit clarified that there is no such rule.

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