In Reyes v. IC Sys., No. 3:19-cv-01206 (JAM), 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 207563, at *1-5 (D. Conn. Dec. 3, 2019), the District Court held that simultaneously debt collectors’ consumer reporting on the same debt did not violate the FDCPA.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides in relevant part that a debt collector may not use false, misleading, or deceptive means to attempt to collect a debt. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692e. This case asks how this provision of the FDCPA applies when two different debt collectors make reports for the same debt to a credit reporting agency. On the basis of the bare-bones allegations of the complaint filed in this case, I conclude that the plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to show that the defendant used false, misleading, or deceptive means to attempt to collect a debt. . . . ICS argues that the complaint does not allege facts to plausibly show that it used any false, deceptive, or misleading means to attempt to collect a debt. I agree. To begin with, Reyes does not dispute that he owes $254 as allegedly reported by ICS to the agency that issued his credit report. Even if another debt collector opted to report the same debt to the credit reporting agency, this does not mean, without more, that ICS’s otherwise truthful report was false, deceptive, or misleading. “[I]t is not false, deceptive, or misleading for [a debt collector] to tell a consumer credit reporting agency that it attempted to collect a debt that [plaintiff] concedes is valid even if that leads to two records relating to the same debt in [plaintiff’s] credit report.” Kohut v. Trans Union, LLC, 2004 WL 1882239, at *3 (N.D. Ill. 2004); see also Macias v. Credit Control, LLC, 2017 WL 2619145, at *3 (N.D. Ill. 2017) (noting that “courts in this District have held that debt collectors do not violate the FDCPA when they report a debt, even if another entity has already made a credit bureau report about the same debt”). T he complaint contains no allegations that ICS’s report was misleading to its only recipient-the credit reporting agency-or led to a false statement in the resulting credit report. Indeed, the complaint is consistent with a credit report that stated, truthfully, that two different debt collectors were seeking the same debt and the credit reporting agency elected, for the purposes of its own reporting, to report the facts of those two collection attempts as representing twice the debt burden. In such a situation, there would be by definition no “false or misleading” representation actionable under the FDCPA. As it is, then, the complaint at best raises only the “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Moreover, although Reyes alleges that he has been harmed by the duplicative reporting of a single debt on his credit report, he does not allege whether it was ICS or the other debt collector who first reported the debt to the credit reporting agency. This is fatal to Reyes’s claim because, even assuming that a credit report containing duplicative debt data can be said to be false, misleading, or deceptive in nature, the statute requires more than that to prove a violation: it requires that the debt collector “use” such improper means to attempt to collect a debt. 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(10); cf. Vincent v. The Money Store, 736 F.3d 88, 98-99 (2d Cir. 2013) (discussing “use” in the context of the FDCPA). If ICS was the first debt collector to report the debt, then there are no grounds to plausibly conclude that ICS was responsible for any subsequent duplicative reporting by another debt collector and thus that ICS tried to “use” a false representation to collect a debt from Reyes. The only “use” of the report to the credit reporting agency in this situation would be completely true: that ICS was collecting a $254 debt.