In Grden v. Leikin Ingber & Winters PC, — F.3d —-, 2011 WL 2518901 (6th Cir. 2011), the Court of Appeals found that certain statements provided by a debt collector to a debtor about the status of an account were not subject to the FDCPA, particularly when made in response to a consumer inquiry.
The text of § 1692e makes clear that, to be actionable, a communication need not itself be a collection attempt; it need only be “connect [ed]” with one. Thus, we agree with the Seventh Circuit that an “explicit demand for payment” is not always necessary for the statute to apply. Gburek v. Litton Loan Serv. LP, 614 F.3d 380, 385 (7th Cir.2010). But it is just as clear that “the statute does not apply to every communication between a debt collector and a debtor.” Id. at 384–85 (emphasis in original). So the question is where to draw the line. ¶ We draw it at the same place the Seventh Circuit did in Gburek: for a communication to be in connection with the collection of a debt, an animating purpose of the communication must be to induce payment by the debtor. See id. at 385 (“a communication made specifically to induce the debtor to settle her debt will be sufficient to trigger the protections” of the Act). Obviously, communications that expressly demand payment will almost certainly have this purpose. But so too might a communication that merely refers the debtor to some other communication that itself demands payment. See, e.g., id. at 386 (third-party letter directing debtor to contact creditor was sent in connection with collection of a debt). Thus, to use the language of § 1692e, a letter that is not itself a collection attempt, but that aims to make a such an attempt more likely to succeed, is one that has the requisite connection. ¶ Here, on one hand, the balance statements obviously came from a debt collector—indeed from one that had already sued Grden—and they stated a balance “due.” On the other hand, the statements themselves did not demand payment or threaten any consequences if Grden did not pay. But for us the decisive point is that Leiken made the balance statements only after Grden called and asked for them. The statements were merely a ministerial response to a debtor inquiry, rather than part of a strategy to make payment more likely. See Gburek, 614 F.3d at 384 (letter that was “merely a description of the current status of the debtor’s account” did not have the requisite connection). Thus, under the circumstances present here, a reasonable jury could not find that an animating purpose of the statements was to induce payment by Grden. We therefore affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to those statements.