In Evans v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, 2018 WL 2035315, at *5–7 (C.A.7 (Ill.), 2018), the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a debt collector violates the FDCPA when the debt collector receives an (untimely) dispute from a debtor in response to a 30-day validation letter and thereafter reports the account to a consumer reporting agency without reporting that the account is disputed.
Turning to § 1692e(8) itself, PRA argues it committed no violation because the Letters “do not qualify as raising any type of true dispute, but are a sham, designed to create liability where no harm to a consumer is threatened.” It maintains that § 1692e(8) “should be given a reasonable interpretation as only applying to true disputes that can be understood as such and meaningfully investigated and addressed.” PRA’s argument is contrary to the language of § 1692e(8). The FDCPA makes clear that “[a] debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692e. Specifically, the statute lists as illicit: “Communicating or threatening to communicate to any person credit information which is known or which should be known to be false, including the failure to communicate that a disputed debt is disputed.” Id. § 1692e(8) (emphasis added). Plaintiffs each sent a Letter to PRA which stated “the amount reported is not accurate.” Despite receiving the Letters, PRA still reported plaintiffs’ debts to credit reporting agencies without noting that the debt amounts were disputed. This is a clear violation of the statute. True, § 1692e(8) does not define “dispute” or provide a procedure for consumers to follow to dispute their debt. But the ordinary meaning of “dispute” is clear. See Dispute, Merriam–Webster Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dispute (last visited April 23, 2018) (defining “dispute” as “to call into question or cast doubt upon”). When plaintiffs said “the amount reported is not accurate,” they “call[ed] into question” the amount PRA claimed they owed—in other words, they disputed the debt. There is simply no other way to interpret this language. Each of the district courts below arrived at the same conclusion. See Paz v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, No. 15-cv-5073, 2016 WL 6833932, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 21, 2016); Evans v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, No. 15-cv-4498, 2016 WL 6833930, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 20, 2016); Bowse v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, 218 F.Supp.3d 745, 751 (N.D. Ill. 2016); Gomez v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, No. 15-cv-4499, 2016 WL 3387158, at *3 (N.D. Ill. June 20, 2016). So too did two additional courts, addressing the meaning of the same statement. Baranowski v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, No. 15-cv-2939, 2018 WL 1534967, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 29, 2018); Flores v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, No. 15-cv-2443, 2017 WL 5891032, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 29, 2017). PRA maintains the Letters did not introduce a dispute because “there was nothing ‘false, deceptive or misleading’ about what PRA did.” It claims that “[t]he record shows that these plaintiffs owed the debts and the amounts stated were accurate.” This argument fails because “our task is to interpret the words of Congress, not add to them.” Keele v. Wexler, 149 F.3d 589, 595 (7th Cir. 1998). Section 1692e(8) does not require an individual’s dispute be valid or even reasonable. Instead, the plaintiff must simply make clear that he or she disputes the debt. See DeKoven v. Plaza Assocs., 599 F.3d 578, 582 (7th Cir. 2010) (“[A] consumer can dispute a debt for ‘no reason at all ….’ ”). Indeed, “[g]iven the FDCPA’s ‘comprehensive and reticulated statutory scheme, involving clear definitions, precise requirements, and particularized remedies,’ the absence of an explicit pre-suit validation requirement is telling.” Russell v. Absolute Collection Servs., Inc., 763 F.3d 385, 392 (4th Cir. 2014) (quoting Sayyed v. Wolpoff & Abramson, 485 F.3d 226, 233 (4th Cir. 2007) ). We decline PRA’s invitation to read into § 1692e(8) a requirement that is not in the text.