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LUXENBURG v. EQUIFAX CREDIT INFORMATION SERVICES

January 5, 2005.

MITCHELL LUXENBURG, Plaintiff,
v.
EQUIFAX CREDIT INFORMATION SERVICES and ANDERSON FINANCIAL NETWORK, INC., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLANCHE MANNING, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Dish Network mistakenly billed plaintiff Mitchell Luxenburg under a contract that Luxenburg had not signed. When Luxenburg disputed the debt, Dish Network sent the debt out to a collection agency, defendant Anderson Financial Network, Inc. ("AFNI").*fn1 AFNI deleted the account approximately two months after Luxenburg disputed the debt, but the debt nevertheless ended up on Luxenburg's credit report for a period of time. Luxenburg asserts that AFNI's collection practices and the way it handled his debt violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. AFNI's motion for summary judgment is before the court. For the following reasons, AFNI's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

  The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. In July of 2002, Luxenburg received a bill from Dish Network in the amount of $348.90. Luxenburg wrote back to Dish Network and stated that he did not owe it any money. Nevertheless, the following month Luxenburg received a dunning letter from a collection agency, defendant AFNI. The letter stated that Luxenburg owed $348.90 to Dish Network. It also stated, in pertinent part, that:
Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of the debt or any portion thereof this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within 30 days of receiving this notice, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification. if you request this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor. This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose.
  In response to this letter, in early September of 2002, Luxenburg wrote to AFNI to dispute the debt. He did not hear back from AFNI. In October of 2002, Luxenburg attempted to refinance his home mortgage and obtain a home equity line of credit. Charter One Bank sent Luxenburg a letter denying the line of credit. One of the factors listed for the denial was collection activity listed in his credit report. Luxenburg tried a second time to obtain credit from Charter One and was successful because he was able to establish that the Dish Network account was incorrect.

  On November 1, 2002, Luxenburg called AFNI. AFNI employees told Luxenburg that he could resolve the issue by paying it $348.90. Luxenburg and AFNI were unable to resolve the issue over the phone and, according to Luxenburg, the AFNI representative eventually hung up on him. Nevertheless, on November 6, 2002, Luxenburg received a letter from AFNI verifying that it had entered a manual credit deletion in its computer system and sent copies of the deletion request to all three credit bureaus. Around the same time, Luxenburg received a letter from Dish Network verifying that Luxenburg did not owe it any money since he had not signed a service contract. Nevertheless, Luxenburg's credit woes were not yet at an end, as in July of 2003, he received a letter from American Express notifying him that his $15,000 credit line, which Luxenburg had maintained for the past five years, had been reduced to $500. The letter also stated that his credit had been reduced because there was a collection account on his credit report, the time since collection was too short, there were too may inquiries in the past twelve months, and the length of time his accounts had been established was too short.

  After receiving American Express' letter, Luxenburg obtained a copy of his credit report so he could personally see what was on it. There were five inquiries in the past twelve months that were not account reviews or promotional inquiries. Two of these inquiries were from Charter One in connection with the refinancing. The accounts opened during the prior year were the Charter One loan and a loan for a new car. Otherwise, Luxenburg's accounts dated back to 1993 and were in good standing without any negative history or remarks. Believing that AFNI was responsible for his credit problems, Luxenburg filed a federal complaint alleging that it violated the FDCPA in connection with its handling of his account with Dish Network.

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. Standard on a Motion for Summary Judgment

  Summary judgment is proper when the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Valenti v. Qualex, Inc., 970 F.2d 363, 365 (7th Cir. 1992). Moreover, a court should grant a motion for summary judgment only when the record shows that a reasonable jury could not find for the nonmoving party. Id.

  B. Luxenburg's FDCPA Claims

  According to Luxenburg's complaint, AFNI violated the FDCPA by: (1) failing to provide him with a proper validation notice as required by 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a); (2) failing to comply with 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(b) by engaging in improper collection activities; and (3) using deceptive and misleading representations in connection with the collection of the Dish Network debt, in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(8).

  1. Validation Notice — § 1692g(a)

  In Luxenburg's complaint, he contends that AFNI failed to send him a validation notice as required by the FDCPA. Section 1692g(a) of the FDCPA provides that:
Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing — (1) the amount of the debt; (2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed; (3) a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector; (4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and (5) a statement that, upon the consumer's written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
  AFNI's initial collection letter ...

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