In a May 16, 2016 opinion, the United States Supreme Court issued a holding which could offer debt collectors substantial protection against frivolous consumer suits and class actions in the federal courts. While the Spokeo case was focused upon the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), the Supreme Court’s opinion could drastically reduce the consumer defense bar’s ability to weaponize the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDPCA”) and Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) in order to generate million-dollar claims against debt collectors who visited no genuine harm upon the consumer.
Some brief background is necessary. The Spokeo Plaintiff, Thomas Robins, claimed that he was “injured” when Spokeo disseminated inaccurate information about him in response to internet-based queries for consumer reports. Accordingly, Robins retained counsel and filed a federal class-action suit in the U.S. District Court for the district of California, alleging that Spokeo had wilfully failed to comply with the requirements of the FCRA by publishing inaccurate information in the body of a consumer report. However, something was glaringly absent from Mr. Robins’ Complaint: an injury. Robins did not allege that he lost a job as a result of the inaccurate information, and did not even assert that the information painted him in a particularly negative light. Rather, he claimed only that the information produced by Spokeo was wrong, and that the FCRA provided him with the right to sue Spokeo when it generated inaccurate information in the body of a consumer report.