In Valentine v. Unifund CCR, Inc., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44747, the court granted a motion to dismiss on the putative class action claim that the debt collector’s name being visible through a glassine window violated the FDCPA’s prohibition on using a debt collector’s name unless the name does not indicate it is in the debt collection business:
As discussed, the name “Unifund” and Unifund’s address was visible through a glassine window in the return address area of the Letter. Compl., Ex. A. Plaintiff alleges that this violates Section 1692f(8) because Unifund “are known debt collectors, which indicates that they are in the debt collection business.” Id. ¶ 43. In her opposition brief, Plaintiff appears to contend that Unifund is a known debt collector because someone could easily conduct a search on the Internet and learn that Unifund is a debt collector. Plf. Opp. at 14-15.
Defendants argue that the Letter does not violate the plain language of § 1692f(8) because the name Unifund does not indicate that Unifund is in the debt collection business. Defs. Br. at 12. The Court agrees with Defendants. As discussed, Section 1692f(8) explicitly permits a debt collector to use its business name “if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(8). Here, nothing in the name “Unifund” suggests that it is in the business of debt collecting.
The court rejected the plaintiff’s attempt to argue that an internet search would disclose the debt collector was in the debt collection business:
As discussed, Plaintiff maintains that because a person may conduct an Internet search, that person could ascertain that Unifund is a debt collector. Thus, Plaintiff asks the Court to look beyond Unifund’s name to impose liability. Plf. Opp. at 14-15. Plaintiff provides no legal authority for her interpretation of the statute. Defendants, however, identify two decisions from outside the Third Circuit that have rejected the same argument. See DeCraene v. Weber & Olcese, P.L.C., 300 F. Supp. 3d 978, 981-82 (W.D. Mich. 2018) (“Even if Plaintiff is correct that an internet search would yield information about [the law firm defendant’s] debt collection work, this is not enough to show a violation of the statute” due to use of the “innocuous” law firm name on an envelope); Davis v. MRS BPO, LLC, No. 15-2303, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91726, 2015 WL 4326900, at *3 (N.D. Ill. July 15, 2015) (“Not only is Plaintiff’s attempt to add a research element into the unsophisticated consumer calculus unsupported by any legal authority, the name and address of MRS BPO does not violate § 1692f(8) because the ‘use of mails’ language within § 1692f(8) allows for items necessary for an envelope to move through the mail, unless the debt collector’s name clearly reflects the correspondence’s purpose.”); see also Johnson v. I.C. Sys., Inc., No. 15-1574, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8132, 2016 WL 304545, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 25, 2016) (rejecting the plaintiff’s arguments that the defendant’s name was recognizable because it was one of the largest debt collection agencies in the country and that a google search would reveal the defendant as a debt collector because “they run counter to the language of § 1692f(8)”). The Court finds these cases persuasive. Simply stated, the plain language of the statute permits Unifund to use its name on the envelope because the name does not indicate that Unifund is in the debt collection business.
Moreover, if the Court adopted Plaintiff’s interpretation, it would eviscerate the statutory exception that permits debt collectors to include their name on the envelope of a debt collection letter. Given the ubiquity of the Internet, under Plaintiff’s interpretation of Section 1692f(8), any name would indicate that the entity is in the debt collection business after an Internet search. The Court will not construe the statutory language in a manner that fundamentally alters Section 1692f(8). Therefore, the Court concludes that the Letter does not violate Section 1692f(8) and Defendants’ motion is granted on these grounds.