Pennsylvania Federal Court Holds Debt Collector’s Communication With Vendor Could Violate FDCPA


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The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently held that a debt collector’s communication with a letter vendor could constitute an FDCPA violation. See Khimmat v. Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., LPA, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21076 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 7, 2022). In the case, the defendant was retained to collect plaintiff’s credit card debt. Before sending a letter, defendant hired a letter vendor and provided the vendor with personal information about plaintiff. Plaintiff then brought this action under 15 USC 1692c(b), which states that a “debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector,” with certain exceptions. Plaintiff alleged that defendant violated this section by transmitting her personal information to the letter vendor. Defendant moved for a judgment on the pleadings.

The Court denied the motion. In doing so, it rejected defendant’s argument that only a demand for payment could be a communication “in connection with the collection of any debt.” The Court found that the Third Circuit already has found that an “‘opening communication in an attempt to collect [the debtor’s defaulted loan]’ . . . qualifies as a communication in connection with an attempt to collect a debt” and that “a letter that is not itself a collection attempt, but that aims to make . . . such an attempt more likely to succeed, is one that has the requisite connection.” Simon v. FIA Card Servs., N.A., 732 F.3d 259, 266 (3d Cir. 2013). The Court also found that, even if the vendor was considered defendant’s agent, the statute does not give an exception for communications with agents and agents would still be considered “any person other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency.” Accordingly, the Court denied the motion, finding that “[o]f course, the best insight into any statute’s purpose is the words that Congress used. When Congress has used clear language, as it has here, a court should not set that language aside to effectuate what it thinks Congress’s purpose was, except in the most exceptional of circumstances.”