In Berry v. ARS National Services, Inc., 2015 WL 9315993, at *3 (E.D.Pa., 2015), Judge Restrepo extended the Douglass decision beyond account numbers to include barcodes being visible on dunning letter envelopes as well.
Initially, it is noted that in Douglass, the Third Circuit held that “§ 1692f(8)’s prohibition on language and symbols applies to markings that are visible through a transparent window of an envelope,” see Douglas, 765 F.3d at 302, and further, that disclosure of a consumer’s account number violates the FDCPA, id. at 302-03. In particular, the Third Circuit found that the defendant’s disclosure of the plaintiff’s account number implicated “a core concern animating the FDCPA – the invasion of privacy.” Id. at 303. . . . Significantly, our Court of Appeals found the relevant statute “not only proscribes potentially harassing and embarrassing language, but also protects consumers’ identifying information.” Id. To the extent that defendant argues that a barcode in particular is a benign symbol, that argument is also without merit. In Styer v. Professional Medical Management, Inc., 2015 WL 4394032 (M.D. Pa. July 15, 2015), and Kostik v. ARS National Services, Inc., 2015 WL 4478765 (M.D. Pa. July 22, 2015), the defendants made the identical arguments raised here – that the barcodes, which when electronically scanned revealed the plaintiffs’ respective account numbers, were benign symbols and therefore their presence on an envelope was not prohibited by the FDCPA, and also that imposing liability due to possible illegal action by a third party was “inappropriate.” Id. at *3; Styer, 2015 WL 4394032, at *3-4. The Court in both cases held that even “[a]ssuming, without deciding, that a benign symbol exception was adopted and applied to [these] circumstances, the [barcode] would still be a violation of the FDCPA because it is not a benign symbol.” Id. at *8; see Kostik, 2015 WL 4478765, at *7 (citing Styer). . . . Accordingly, even assuming, without deciding, that a benign symbol exception was adopted and applied to these circumstances, the barcode would still be a violation of the FDCPA because it is not a benign symbol. See id. at *8; see also Link v. ARS Nat’l Servs., 2015 WL 8271651 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 8, 2015); Pirrone v. NCO Fin. Systs., Inc., 2015 WL 7766393, *1 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 30, 2015); Park v. ARS Nat’l Servs., Inc., 2015 WL 6579686, *4 (D. N.J. Oct. 30, 2015); Kostik, 2015 WL 4478765, at *7. . . .Put simply, section 1692f’s clear prohibition against “any language or symbol” on an envelope, see 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(8) (emph. added), includes barcodes which can “be easily scanned by anyone with a smartphone,” see Pls.’ Compls. ¶ 14. This determination is consistent with our Court of Appeals’ reminder that the FDCPA is remedial legislation which is to be broadly construed in order to give full effect to the purpose of preventing abusive debt collection practices which lead to “invasions of individual privacy.” See Douglass, 765 F.3d at 301-02 (citing § 1692(a) and (e)). Since disclosure of a barcode under the circumstances alleged in plaintiffs’ Complaints states a violation of the FDCPA, defendant’s motions for judgment on the pleadings are denied.