A Seventh Circuit district court recently clarified that a Fair Debt Collection Practice (“FDCPA”) plaintiff may not satisfy Article III’s injury-in-fact requirement by alleging confusion and aggravation, even where a complaint generally alleges actual damages.
In Suxstorf v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs. LLC, Plaintiff brought claims under the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 1692e against Defendant, Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC, a debt collector. In connection with an outstanding debt, Defendant sent Plaintiff a “permanent hardship” letter, in which Defendant offered to pause or cease its collection efforts upon a showing of permanent hardship. Defendant attached to the letter a “Permanent Hardship Request Form,” in which it requested certain consumer information to evidence permanent hardship, including: the consumer’s date of birth, the last four digits of the consumer’s Social Security number, the consumer’s employment status, whether the consumer is receiving unemployment benefits, whether the consumer is receiving Social Security benefits or any other financial assistance from the government, any other sources of income and a description of any financial hardship and the duration of that hardship.
Plaintiff alleged that Defendant’s request for such information was under false pretenses and that the actual purpose of requesting the information was to determine whether to bring suit against the consumer based on the information obtained from the permanent hardship letter. Plaintiff alleged that this practice violated, among other statutes, the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(10), which prohibits a debt collector from using “any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(10). Plaintiff alleges that he was confused and misled by the letter and that he was required to spend time and money investigating the letter and the consequences of his response.