In Koehn v. Delta Outsource Group, Inc., No. 19-1088 (7th Cir. September 29, 2019), here, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit had had enough with ingenious interpretations of dunning letters to create a purported violation of the FDCPA.
An unsophisticated consumer is “uninformed, naïve, or trusting,” Veach v. Sheeks, 316 F.3d 690, 693 (7th Cir. 2003), but nonetheless possesses “reasonable intelligence,” basic knowledge about the financial world, and “is wise enough to read collection notices with added care.” Gruber v. Creditors’ Protection Service, Inc., 742 F.3d 271, 273 (7th Cir. 2014) (quotations omitted). . . .We have cautioned before: “The Act is not violated by a dunning letter that is susceptible of an ingenious misreading, for then every dunning letter would violate it.” White v. Goodman, 200 F.3d 1016, 1020 (7th Cir. 2000), quoted in Chuway, 362 F.3d at 948. It takes an ingenious misreading of this letter to find it misleading. And that same ingenuity would call into question the even simpler phrase that “the balance is $____.” After all, the simple present-tense verb “is” also implies “current,” doesn’t it? Dunning letters can comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act without answering all possible questions about the future. A lawyer’s ability to identify a question that a dunning letter does not expressly answer (“Is it possible the balance might increase?”) does not show the letter is misleading, even if a speculative guess to answer the question might be wrong.