Collector - March 2021 - 26

" The final rule does not address whether a
trade name needs to be registered in order
to comply with the requirements for limited
content messages or other laws. "

Levins v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery
Group - In contrast to Sheriff, however, the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit
found in Levins v. Healthcare Revenue
Recovery Group, LLC that a debt collector
that had a registered trade name and, in
communication with consumers, used an
abbreviation of that name but apparently
never did business under the abbreviated
name could have violated the true name
requirement.
In Levins, the consumers received
several voicemails from the debt collector,
Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group
(HRRG), stating: " ARS calling. Please return
our call at 1-800-694-3048. ARS is a debt
collector. This is an attempt to collect a debt.
Any information obtained will be used for
that purpose. Again, our number is 1-800694-3048. Visit us at www.arspayment.com. "
The name " ARS " was an abbreviation of
HRRG's registered trade name, ARS Account
Resolution Services.
The consumers alleged that HRRG
violated the true name requirement by using
the abbreviated name " ARS " in the voicemail.
The district granted HRRG's motion to
dismiss, and the consumers appealed.
On appeal, the 3rd Circuit found that the
complaint stated a plausible claim under
FDCPA Section 1692e(14). In doing so,
the court relied on and adopted the FTC's
interpretation of the true name requirement
as stated in the 1988 Interpretation Staff
Commentary discussed above. In applying
that standard, the 3rd Circuit found that
" [n]othing in the information properly

26

before [the court] indicates that 'ARS' is
HRRG's full business name, the name under
which it usually transacts business, or its
commonly used acronym. "
The 3rd Circuit remanded the case
to the district court. HRRG moved for
summary judgment, asserting that it
used the unregistered abbreviation of its
registered trade name ARS in its course
of communications with the consumers.
The district court denied HRRG's motion
for summary judgment, finding that " the
record show[ed] that HRRG sent plaintiffs
three letters and left them five voicemails
which identified the entity attempting to
collect plaintiffs' debt as 'HRRG' and made
no mention of the ARS division. This use
of 'HRRG' when communicating with
plaintiffs is plainly inconsistent with HRRG's
subsequent use of the name 'ARS.' "
Notably, at no point in any of the Levins
decisions did either the district court or
the circuit court note the general standard
for the true name requirement set forth in
Sheriff. Rather, the courts adhered to the
interpretation offered by the FTC in 1988 and
simply found that on the facts placed on the
record, HRRG had not consistently used the
abbreviation " ARS " in its communications
with these (or any) consumers.

OTHER CASE LAW
Velez v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery
Grp., LLC - The complaint did not
plausibly allege a violation of the true
name requirement where the debt
collector had used a trade name-which

it had not registered in North Carolina
and which was not " licensed as a
collection agency in North Carolina " -in
letters to consumers located in North
Carolina. The trade name had, however,
been registered in the debt collector's
home state (principal place of business)
and therefore satisfied the true name
requirement even for the purposes of its
communications with North Carolina
consumers.
Dickenson v. Townside T.V. &
Appliance, Inc. - In a case mostly about
a creditor's liability under the FDCPA
for attempting to collect a debt in a name
other than its own, the court applied the
1988 FTC staff commentary to the true
name analysis. The court found that where
the creditor had consistently used an
unregistered trade name in doing business
with the public and had billed customers,
including the plaintiffs, using that trade
name, the creditor had not attempted to
mislead the consumers into believing that
a third party was involved in the collection
of its debts.
Espinal v. Enhanced Recovery Co.,
LLC - Applying the interpretation in the
1988 FTC staff commentary as adopted
by the 3rd Circuit, the court found
that " a debtor's ability to know what an
acronym stands for " is not part of the
true name requirement and that a debt
collector who registered an abbreviated
name as an alternate name in collections
and customer care in the state where the
FDCPA alleged violation had occurred;
registered that abbreviated name as a
trade name both in the state where it
maintained its principal place of business
and in its state of incorporation; and
had regularly used the abbreviated name
in connection with its debt collection
services for two decades had established,
for purposes of summary judgment, that
it had a commonly used acronym.

APPLICABLE STATE LAW
While the FDCPA generally operates as the
primary law that regulates debt collection,
debt collectors must also abide by applicable

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


http://www.arspayment.com http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

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