She Can Infer ATDS Claims, But Her FDCPA-Name Claim Fell Short

A TCPA claim for an ATDS violation cannot be a bare conclusion.  On the other hand, you don’t need to plead specific technical detail. Rather, a plaintiff only needs to describe facts that make it plausible an ATDS was used to make the calls.  Scalercio-Isenberg v. Citizens Fin. Grp., Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 221222, *16-17, zeros in on this. The court held that the Plaintiff’s allegations against the Defendant, Citzens Bank for:

  • unwanted calls;
  • instances where nobody was on the line when she picked up;
  • and when she called back, the line was automatically answered with “you’ve reached Citzens Bank”,

taken together, were sufficient allegations to state an ATDS use claim. The Court did note that ultimately discovery could show the technology was not an ATDS. 

But wait! We haven’t officially launched FDCPAWorld.com yet, and it may or may not be in the works. (You’ll have to ask the Czar.)  But the FDCPA news from this case is so juicy that we had to report on it, even though it isn’t TCPA related per se. 

In this case, the Defendant, Citizens Bank, purchased and serviced the pro se Plaintiff’s Home Equity Line of Credit.  The Plaintiff alleged many problems with Citizens Bank’s servicing. One of her claims was a FDCPA violation, namely, that when communicating with her, Citizens Bank used other names, or aliases, like ‘Citizens Financial Group’, ‘Citizens Bank N.A.’, and ‘Citizens Home Loans’, which obscured the fact that Citizens Bank was the true entity collecting the debt. The Court dismissed this claim.   

As a brief background, creditors, like Citizens Bank here, are generally exempt from the FDCPA.  But, if a creditor uses a different name when collecting its own debts, which indicates that a third-party is collecting, then the creditor may be subject to the FDCPA under the “false name exception” in Section 1692(a).  This court followed a growing majority (2nd, 7th, and 11th Circuits) to hold that the slightly different names that Citizens Bank used was not enough to imply a third party was collecting, especially since each name the Plaintiff listed in her allegations contained the word ‘Citizens’ in it. 

This decision may provide a defense boost to creditors that choose to not use their exact name in their collection efforts.              

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