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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:American Collections Enterprise Inc., a debt collector, contracted with Capital One in 2001 to provide debt collection services. Under the terms of the collection agreement, Capital One assigned delinquent accounts to ACEI for collection, and ACEI collected these debts on a contingent fee basis. Under the collection agreement Capital One gave ACEI the authority to settle any of its accounts at a discount according to a formula. Plaintiff Pooja Goswami alleged that ACEI’s debt collection practices in her case violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, in particular 15 U.S.C. 1692f(8) because it placed a “priority letter” marking on the collection letter envelope; and under 1692e(10) because it misled her about the terms of a settlement offer in the body of the letter itself. The district court denied relief for the markings on the envelope but found that the statement in the body of the letter was not deceptive; the letter leads an unsophisticated consumer to falsely believe that the settlement offer is a one time, take-it-or-leave-it offer. HOLDING:Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The court finds that 1692f(8) is ambiguous, but “we are convinced that the FDCPA does not bar the innocuous”priority letter’ markings in this case. Nothing about the marking”priority letter’ intimates that the contents of the envelope relate to collection of delinquent debts, and thus the language is neither threatening nor embarrassing.” The court shows more concern, however, for the body of the letter. “The letter states, falsely, that ‘only during the next thirty days, will our client agree to settle your outstanding balance due with a thirty (30%) percent discount off your above balance owed,’ ” the court wrote. But Capital One had authorized ACEI to give consumers discounts of up to 50 percent, with no 30-day limit. “A collection agency may offer a settlement; however, it may not be deceitful in the presentation of that settlement offer, as ACEI was in this case. ACEI made false or misleading statements about the settlement authority it held from Capital One both in the discount it was authorized to offer and the time within which Goswami was allowed to accept the offer. ACEI’s deception is actionable under the FDCPA and is not excused because it is part of a debt collector’s settlement offer,” the court continued. OPINION:Davis, J.; Davis, Prado and Pickering, JJ.

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