Failure to Itemize Debt Is Not A Violation of the FDCPA

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In Vogel v. McCarthy, Burgess & Wolff, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (the “Court”) granted summary judgment to a debt collector on a debtor’s claim that failure to itemize debt in a collection letter was a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).

Plaintiff Erin Vogel signed a rental agreement for a rental car for two days for a total estimated cost of $592.22. Thirty-seven days later she finally returned the car with a busted side view mirror and without a key. The rental agency had the car towed, presumably to be fixed, and sent Vogel an invoice for $3,717.88, which broke down the components of the bill. Vogel paid $681.05 towards her bill but failed to pay the remainder. The rental agency eventually referred the matter to McCarthy, Burgess & Wolff, Inc. (“MB&W”) for collections. MB&W sent Vogel a collection letter stating that the “TOTAL DUE” was $3,063.83.

Instead of paying her debt, Vogel sued MB&W for violation of the FDCPA on behalf of herself and a putative class, claiming that the collection letter failed to itemize the debt. The Court considered whether MB&W’s letter was “false, deceptive, or misleading” under 15 U.S.C. § 1692e and looked at 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a)(1)’s requirement that the debt collector “send the consumer a written notice containing (1) the amount of the debt.” The Court held that “[n]othing in the statute requires a debt collector to itemize the component parts of that ‘amount,’” pointing out that the statute “requires ‘the amount,’ not the subparts.” Slip. Op. 13.

This opinion is helpful in providing guidance to debt collectors regarding what is required in collection letters. According to Judge Seeger, the FDCPA does not require a debt collector to itemize the component parts of the debt.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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