Zablocki v. Merchants Credit Guide Co., No. 19-2045 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In 2013, Zablocki had x-rays administered by Medical-Midwest. Zablocki’s insurance provider covered some of the costs, Eventually, Medical-Midwest turned to Merchants for debt collection. After about two years without success collecting the debts, Merchants reported to a consumer reporting agency, TransUnion, that Zablocki owes four debts of $50, $62, $70, and $210, corresponding to each x-ray charge. Zablocki filed suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692f, arguing that by reporting the obligations separately, rather than aggregated together, Merchants falsely represented the “character" of the debt, in violation of section 1692e(2)(A), and used an “unfair or unconscionable means” to collect or attempt to collect a debt, in violation of section 1692f. 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692e(2)(A), 1692f.
The Seventh Circuit subsequently held that reporting debts separately, rather than aggregated together, does not misrepresent the “character” of a debt. Zablocki accordingly abandoned his section 1692e challenge. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the section 1692f claim. From the perspective of an unsophisticated but reasonable consumer, the alleged conduct is reasonable. It is not deceptive or outrageous for a collector to report individually debts that correspond to different charges, thereby communicating truthfully how much is owed on each debt.