Pennsylvania Federal Court: Quick Response Code on Outer Envelope of Debt Collection Letter Does Not Violate FDCPA

A federal court in Pennsylvania recently held that a "Quick Response Code" ("QR Code") located on an envelope that contained a debt collection letter did not violate Section 1692f of the FDCPA. In Waldron v. Professional Medical Management, the plaintiff sued the defendant debt collection firm after it sent him collection letter bearing a QR Code that was visible through the pane of the envelope and, when scanned, showed the plaintiff's name, address, and a nineteen digit code. No. 12-1863, 2013 WL 978933 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 13, 2013). The defendant moved for summary judgment. In support of its motion, the defendant argued that because the QR Code disclosed nothing, its placement on the outer envelope did not violate the FDCPA. In response, the plaintiff argued that placing the QR Code on the outer envelope was equivalent to placing the embedded data on the envelope itself. Rejecting the plaintiff's argument, the court said that 1692f(8) articulated a "benign language exception" and "was intended merely to prevent debt collectors from embarrassing debtors by announcing the delinquency on the outside of a debt collection letter envelope." The court found that the QR Code conveyed nothing and did not reveal the source or purpose of the enclosed letter. The court also rejected the plaintiff's argument that QR readers are easily downloadable and, thus, the information contained in the QR Code was easily accessible. The court dismissed the plaintiff's concerns and noted that federal regulations and the Fourth Amendment prohibit postal workers from tampering with, reading, or scanning mail items. While debt collectors must use caution in disclosing information related to debt collection on outer envelopes, the reasoning in Waldron enables debt collectors to benefit from using certain technological developments, such as QR Codes for the purposes of tracking mail to debtors, without facing a potential FDCPA violation. Additionally, the Waldron decision reinforces courts' ability to apply the "benign language" exception in Section 1692f(8) of the FDCPA. For more information on consumer finance litigation topics, please contact one of the Burr & Forman team members for assistance. We are happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Posted in: FDCPA, Pennsylvania
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