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3rd Circuit Ruling On Bar Codes Has Implications For Debt Collectors

  • Written by Steel Rose

In the wake of Hunstein v. Preferred Collections and Management Services, Inc., in which the 11th Circuit determined that a debt collection company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by disclosing a consumer’s debt-related information to a mailing vendor, the 3rd Circuit recently ruled that the presence of a bar code on the envelope sent to the debtor, which when scanned revealed certain protected debtor-related information, was a violation of the FDCPA and constituted a concrete harm sufficient for Article III standing.

In Morales v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group, LLC, the plaintiff received a debt collection letter from Healthcare Revenue Recovery Group displaying a bar code on the envelope. Morales filed a class action lawsuit, claiming the envelope violated the FDCPA because a smartphone could scan the envelope’s bar code to reveal the debt collector’s internal reference number and the first ten characters of Morales’ street address. The District Court dismissed Morales’ complaint for lack of standing, finding that he suffered no harm. Morales appealed after the 3rd Circuit decided another case, DiNaples v. MRS BPO, LLC, ruling that a quick reference (QR) code disclosing an account number was sufficient harm for Article III standing. The District Court reasoned that the disclosure of an account number (like in DiNaples) was different and more serious than disclosure of an internal reference number. To read more click here.