Preston v. Midland Credit Management, Inc., No. 18-3119 (7th Cir. 2020)

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Justia Opinion Summary

Preston brought a putative class action, claiming that Midland Credit sent him a collection letter that violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692–1692[. He claimed the words “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” on the envelope violated section 1692f(8)’s prohibition against “[u]sing any language or symbol,” other than the defendant’s business name or address, on the envelope of a debt collection letter. He claimed that those words, and the combination statements about discounted payment options with a statement that Midland was not obligated to renew those offers, in the body of the letter, were false and deceptive, under section 1692e(2) and (10). The district court dismissed the complaint, citing a "benign‐language exception" to the statutory language because the language “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” did not create any privacy concerns or expose Preston to embarrassment. The court also rejected Preston’s section 1692e claims. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part: the language of section 1692f(8) is clear and its application does not lead to absurd results. The prohibition of any writing on an envelope containing a debt collection letter represents a rational policy choice by Congress. The language on the envelope and in the letter does not, however, violate section 1692e(2) and (10). Midland accurately and appropriately used safe‐harbor language as described in precedent.

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In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit ____________________ No. 18 3119 NEAL PRESTON, individually and on behalf of a nationwide class of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff Appellant, v. MIDLAND CREDIT MANAGEMENT, INC., Defendant Appellee. ____________________ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:18 cv 01532 — Sara L. Ellis, Judge. ____________________ ARGUED MAY 29, 2019 — DECIDED JANUARY 21, 2020 ____________________ Before RIPPLE, ROVNER, and BARRETT, Circuit Judges. RIPPLE, Circuit Judge. Neal Preston brought this putative class action in which he claimed that Midland Credit Man agement, Inc. (“Midland”), had sent him a collection letter that violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692–1692p. Specifically, he claimed that the words “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” on 2 No. 18 3119 the envelope violated § 1692f(8)’s prohibition against “[u]sing any language or symbol,” other than the defend ant’s business name or address, on the envelope of a debt collection letter. He also claimed that these words, and other language employed in the body of the letter, were false and deceptive, in violation of § 1692e(2) and (10). On Midland’s motion, the district court dismissed the complaint. The district court noted that the plain language of § 1692f(8) prohibited any writing on the envelope, but never theless concluded that there was a benign language excep tion to the statutory language. Because the language “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” did not create any privacy con cerns or expose Mr. Preston to embarrassment, the district court held that it fell within this exception. The district court found no merit with respect to Mr. Preston’s claims under § 1692e. We now reverse in part and affirm in part. We conclude that the language of § 1692f(8) is clear, and its application does not lead to absurd results. To the contrary, the prohibi tion of any writing on an envelope containing a debt collec tion letter represents a rational policy choice by Congress. Consequently, we conclude that the district court erred in dismissing Mr. Preston’s claim under § 1692f(8). However, we agree with the district court that the language on the en velope and in the letter does not violate § 1692e and, there fore, affirm the dismissal of the claims brought under that section. No. 18 3119 3 I. BACKGROUND A. In July 2017, Midland sent Mr. Preston a debt collection letter. The collection letter was enclosed in an envelope, 1 which bore the words “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT.” This internal envelope was enclosed in a larger envelope with a glassine covering so that the words on the internal envelope were visible to the recipient. The enclosed letter set forth information about a debt that Midland sought to collect from Mr. Preston, as well as two discounted payment options if Mr. Preston submitted pay ment by a certain date. The first offered a discount of forty percent off the total debt balance if Mr. Preston paid the sum in a single payment by August 18, 2017. The second offered a discount of twenty percent off the total debt if Mr. Preston made six monthly installments, with the first payment due by August 18, 2017. The letter urged Mr. Preston to “[a]ct now to maximize … savings and put this debt behind you … 2 .” The letter further stated that the offer expired on August 18, 2017. At the bottom of the letter, just above the payment 1 R.1 ¶ 27 (bold removed). In reviewing the dismissal of Mr. Preston’s claims, we accept as true all well pleaded facts set forth in his complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. See, e.g., Anicich v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 852 F.3d 643, 648 (7th Cir. 2017). 2 Id. ¶ 37. 4 No. 18 3119 coupon, Midland included the following statement: “We are 3 not obligated to renew any offers provided.” B. Following his receipt of the letter, Mr. Preston filed this action in which he alleged that the language on the enve lope, the language in the letter, and the combination of the two violated the FDCPA. Specifically, in Count I, he alleged that the phrase “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” violated § 1692f(8) because it was language other than Midland’s ad dress that appeared on an envelope containing a debt collec tion letter. He also alleged that the envelope itself constitut ed a false representation of the character, amount, or legal status of a debt, under § 1692e(2)(a), as well a false or decep tive means to collect a debt under § 1692e(10). Count II made equivalent allegations on behalf of a class of consumers. Count III alleged that the envelope, together with the lan guage of the discounted offers and the disclaimer that Mid land was not obligated to renew any offers, “create[d] a false sense of urgency,” which constituted both a “false represen tation of—the character, [and] legal status of any debt” in violation of § 1692e(2)(a), and a “false representation or de 4 ceptive means to collect … a debt” under § 1692e(10). Count IV made equivalent allegations on behalf of the purported class. Counts V and VI alleged individual and class claims, 3 Id. ¶ 36. 4 Id. ¶¶ 66, 68 (second alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). Count III also included an allegation that the envelope and language violated § 1692f; however, Mr. Preston abandoned that claim in his response to Midland’s motion to dismiss. See R.23 at 11 n.1. No. 18 3119 5 respectively, that the discounted offers, standing alone, vio lated §§ 1692e(2)(a), 1692e(10), and 1692f(8). Finally, Count VII alleged that Midland’s letter violated the Illinois Con sumer Fairness Act. Midland moved to dismiss the complaint. It first ob served that the purpose of § 1692f(8), as set forth in the legis lative history, was to prohibit debt collectors from using lan guage or symbols that revealed that the letter concerned debt collection; it was not intended to “bar the use of harm 5 less words or symbols.” It further noted that several courts, including the Courts of Appeals for the Fifth and Eighth Cir cuits, had adopted a “‘benign language’ exception” to § 1692f(8)’s absolute prohibition of the use of any symbol or 6 language on the envelope of the debt collection letter. Be cause “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” did not suggest that the contents involved debt collection, Midland argued, this language fell within such an exception. Turning to Mr. Preston’s claim that the envelope and language together created a false sense of urgency, Midland submitted that the language it had employed fell within the safe harbor that we created in Evory v. RJM Acquisitions Funding, L.L.C., 505 F.3d 769 (7th Cir. 2007). According to Midland, Evory involved “the same legal theory espoused by [Mr. Preston],” namely that consumers may be convinced that, if they do not act quickly, there will not be further op 5 R.20 at 4 (quoting Lindbergh v. Transworld Sys., Inc., 846 F. Supp. 175, 180 (D. Conn. 1994)). 6 Id. at 4–5. 6 No. 18 3119 7 portunities to settle their debt. Midland maintained that its use of the safe harbor language—“[w]e are not obligated to renew any offers provided”—merely informed the consumer that there may not be other settlement offers, while “dis pel[ling] any false impression by the consumer as to his or 8 her options.” Finally, Midland contended that there simply was not any way that a consumer could misconstrue or misunder 9 stand the offer language. Consequently, the offer language, by itself or with the envelope, did not violate any provisions of the FDCPA. Mr. Preston opposed the motion. He maintained that the plain language of § 1692f(8) prohibited the use of any lan guage or symbol on the envelope other than the debt collec tor’s business name or address. Moreover, he contended, the blanket prohibition set forth in § 1692f(8) achieves rather than frustrates the statute’s purpose. Specifically, it discour ages debt collectors from “tak[ing] liberties with Section 1692[f](8) by adding so called ‘benign language’ to the enve 10 lopes of debt coll[ec]tion letters.” Turning to his claims under § 1692e(2) and (10), Mr. Pres ton submitted that Evory was not controlling. He noted that the letter in Evory did not contain the words “‘Act Now’” or 7 Id. at 7. 8 Id. at 7–8. 9 See id. at 8 & n.2. 10 R.23 at 7. No. 18 3119 7 suggest that the consumer faced “‘TIME SENSITIVE’ pay 11 ment options.” Additionally, Mr. Preston argued that Mid land’s placement of the safe harbor language “well away” from the offending language diminished the effect of the 12 safe harbor language on the consumer. The district court agreed with Midland and dismissed the complaint. It noted that two Courts of Appeals, the Fifth Cir cuit in Goswami v. American Collections Enterprise, Inc., 377 F.3d 488 (5th Cir. 2004), and the Eighth Circuit in Strand v. Diversified Collection Service, Inc., 380 F.3d 316 (8th Cir. 2004), “ha[d] accepted … a benign language exception” to 13 14 § 1692f(8). On the basis of these authorities, the district 15 court was persuaded to reject a literal interpretation. The court determined that the language “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” was indistinguishable from the phrases such as “priority mail” and “immediate reply requested” that the 16 courts in Goswami and Strand had determined were benign. 11 Id. at 12 (bold removed). 12 Id. 13 R.26 at 4. 14 The court also relied upon district court opinions that had followed Goswami v. American Collections Enterprise, Inc., 377 F.3d 488 (5th Cir. 2004), and Strand v. Diversified Collection Service, Inc., 380 F.3d 316 (8th Cir. 2004). See R.26 at 4–5. 15 Id. at 4–5. 16 Id. at 5. 8 No. 18 3119 Turning to Mr. Preston’s claims under § 1692e, the court concluded that Evory was controlling. The district court ex plained that, like Midland, the debt collector in Evory had employed language designed to prompt consumers to act quickly to take advantage of the offers. Although such offers were not improper, the language could leave the impression that, if the consumer did not pay by the stated deadline, he may not have an opportunity to settle his debt. In reality, however, these offers frequently were renewed. “To address this,” the district court explained, this court had “created safe harbor language for debt collectors to use when sending letters like that [Mr.] Preston received that offer discounts: 17 ‘We are not obligated to renew this offer.’” The district court concluded that Midland had employed such language in its communication to Mr. Preston and had used it for its intended purpose: “to protect the unsophisticated consumer ‘against receiving a false impression of his options’ and pro tect the debt collector from claims that its offers are mislead 18 ing.” Consequently, the district court held that Midland was protected by Evory’s safe harbor with respect to Mr. Preston’s claims under § 1692e. The district court therefore dismissed Mr. Preston’s FDCPA claims on the merits. It declined to exercise supple mental jurisdiction over his claims under Illinois state law and, therefore, dismissed those without prejudice. Following entry of judgment, Mr. Preston timely appealed. 17 Id. at 8 (quoting Evory v. RJM Acquisitions Funding L.L.C., 505 F.3d 769, 776 (7th Cir. 2007)). 18 Id. (quoting Evory, 505 F.3d at 776). No. 18 3119 9 II. Before this court, Mr. Preston maintains that the district court erred in dismissing his § 1692f(8) claim based on the language on the envelope. He also renews his § 1692e claims based on the envelope, the letter, and the collective language 19 of both. We begin with his § 1692f(8) claim. A. As we previously noted, Mr. Preston submits that the plain language of § 1692f(8) prohibits any language or sym bol, other than the debt collector’s business name or address, from appearing on the envelope containing a debt collection letter. We agree. In construing a statute, “we begin ‘with the language of the statute.’ If the statutory language is unambiguous and the ‘statutory scheme is coherent and consistent’ … ‘[t]he in quiry ceases.’” Kingdomware Techs., Inc. v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1969, 1976 (2016) (quoting Barnhart v. Sigmon Coal Co., 534 U.S. 438, 450 (2002)). Section 1692f of Title 15 provides: A debt collector may not use unfair or uncon scionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt. Without limiting the general applica tion of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section: 19 Following oral argument, we determined that, in deciding this appeal, we would benefit from the views of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), the agency to whom Congress has delegated rulemak ing authority with respect to the FDCPA. The CFPB filed a brief as ami cus curiae, to which both parties responded. We thank the CFPB for its submission. 10 No. 18 3119 (1) The collection of any amount (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creat ing the debt or permitted by law. (2) The acceptance by a debt collector from any person of a check or other payment instrument postdated by more than five days unless such person is notified in writing of the debt collec tor’s intent to deposit such check or instrument not more than ten nor less than three business days prior to such deposit. (3) The solicitation by a debt collector of any postdated check or other postdated payment instrument for the purpose of threatening or instituting criminal prosecution. (4) Depositing or threatening to deposit any postdated check or other postdated payment instrument prior to the date on such check or instrument. (5) Causing charges to be made to any person for communications by concealment of the true purpose of the communication. Such charges include, but are not limited to, collect tele phone calls and telegram fees. (6) Taking or threatening to take any nonjudi cial action to effect dispossession or disable ment of property if— No. 18 3119 11 (A) there is no present right to possession of the property claimed as collateral through an enforceable security interest; (B) there is no present intention to take pos session of the property; or (C) the property is exempt by law from such dispossession or disablement. (7) Communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card. (8) Using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business. The first sentence of § 1692f prohibits debt collectors from using unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt. That prohibition is then followed by a specific list of conduct that violates the section. Among those acts specifically listed is the use of “any language or symbol, other than the debt col lector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer … except that a debt collector may use his busi ness name” under prescribed circumstances. 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(8). On its face, the prohibition is clear: use of any lan guage or symbol on an envelope, except for the debt collec tor’s name (if it does not indicate that the collector is in the business of debt collection) and the debt collector’s address, violates subsection (8). 12 No. 18 3119 Nevertheless, Midland maintains that a literal application of § 1692f(8) “would unquestionably lead to bizarre re 20 sults.” It urges us to adopt the view of our sister circuits in Strand and Goswami, to hold that subsection (8) needs clarifi cation, and to look to legislative history to guide our inter pretation of that provision. We turn now to those cases. In Strand, a debt collector, DCS, had sent a collection let ter in an envelope with the words “PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL” and “IMMEDIATE REPLY REQUESTED” printed on it; the envelope “also displayed a printed corporate logo depicting a grid with an upward pointing arrow and the initials ‘DCS.’” 380 F.3d at 317 (bold removed). In considering whether this language violated § 1692f(8)’s prohibition, the court first observed that a literal interpretation of statutory language would “create bizarre results” because, the court believed, “a debtor’s address and an envelope’s pre printed postage would arguably be pro hibited, as would any innocuous mark related to the post, such as ‘overnight mail’ and ‘forwarding and address cor rection requested.’” Id. at 318. “With this observation in mind,” the court began its “analysis by considering whether DCS violated § 1692f(8) by printing its initials on the suspect envelopes.” Id. The court noted that it was “not plainly clear [that] the statute prohib its the use of such initials as a corporate name.” Id. It ex plained: While the statute forbids use of “any language or symbol,” it makes an exception for the debt 20 Appellee’s Br. 12. No. 18 3119 13 collector’s business name, so long as the name does not reveal the collector’s business. At is sue then is whether the word “name,” as used in the statute, encompasses references to a cor poration by its initials. We believe the word, as used modernly in commerce, can mean not only an appellation in the traditional sense of the word but also a more abstract signifier, such as initials. In to day’s culture, when memorable brevity is par amount and words and statements are so commonly reduced to letters and numerals (e.g., Y2K), initials often have a wider currency than the names they represent. Id. The court in Strand looked primarily to two sources to guide its interpretation. The first was the FDCPA’s statement of purpose “to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors [and] to insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged.” Id. at 318–19 (quoting 15 U.S.C. § 1692(e)). The second was a decision from the Cen tral District of California that had recognized a benign language exception for the words “‘Personal & Confidential’ and ‘Forwarding and Address Correction Requested.’” Id. at 319 (quoting Masuda v. Thomas Richards & Co., 759 F. Supp. 1456, 1466 (C.D. Cal. 1991)). After reviewing these decisions, the Eighth Circuit concluded that, “[i]n light of such clear and universal pronouncements on the purpose of the FDCPA, we believe a reading of the word ‘name’ encom passing initials and logos does not thwart Congressional 14 No. 18 3119 purpose in any way.” Id. at 319. “By a natural extension,” it continued, “this construction also renders benign the neutral logo and innocuous phrases printed on the DCS envelopes.” Id. In Goswami, the plaintiff alleged that “a ‘priority letter’ marking on the collection letter envelope” violated § 1692f(8). 377 F.3d at 491. In evaluating this claim, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the prohibition in § 1692f(8) reasona bly could be read in one of two ways: 1) if read in isolation, it could be read as “barring any markings on the outside of … [the] envelope other than the names and addresses of the parties”; and 2) if read together with the prefatory language of § 1692f, it could be read as “only prohibit[ing] markings … that are unfair or unconscionable.” Id. at 493. Believing the statutory language to be ambiguous, the court looked to the legislative history, the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) interpretation of the provision, and district court cases interpreting the provision, see id. at 494 (collecting cas es), to conclude that a benign language exception should apply. Examining the language at issue, it observed that “[n]othing about the marking ‘priority letter’ intimates that the contents of the envelope relate to collection of delinquent debts.” Id. at 494. Consequently, the language did not violate § 1692f(8). Id. We respectfully disagree with the approach taken by our sister circuits. Adherence to the plain wording of § 1692f(8) does not, as Strand suggests, prohibit the use of a debtor’s address. Nor does the language prohibit pre printed postage or the use of words such as “overnight mail.” The section plainly sanctions “use of the mails” to communicate with a debtor and therefore also sanctions the use of the language No. 18 3119 15 and symbols required for sending communications through the mail. It does not prohibit markings required by the Unit ed States Postal Service such as stamping or affixing lan guage or symbols to ensure the successful delivery of the communication. We also cannot agree with our sister circuits that the prefatory language of §1692f renders the provision ambigu ous. The first sentence of §1692f prohibits a debt collector from “us[ing] unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.” It next sets forth a nonexhaus tive list of conduct that constitutes “a violation of this sec tion.” Turner v. J.V.D.B. & Assocs., Inc., 330 F.3d 991, 996 (7th Cir. 2003) (“Section 1692f states, without qualification, that ‘the following conduct is a violation of this section.’”). Each subsection, (1) through (8), sets forth a discrete means of vio lating the statute, and the elements of each violation are de termined by the language of the subsection. Cf. Turner, 330 F.3d at 996 (stating that “[w]hether the collection of a debt violates § 1692f(1) depends solely on two factors: (1) whether the debt agreement explicitly authorizes the charge; or (2) whether the charge is permitted by law,” both of which ap pear in the text of f(1)). Nothing about the prefatory lan guage of § 1692f renders the meaning of subsection (8) am 21 biguous. 21 We also are unpersuaded by the reasoning of the district court cases on which our sister circuits relied. See Lindbergh, 846 F. Supp. 175; Johnson v. NCB Collection Servs., 799 F. Supp. 1298 (D. Conn. 1992); Masuda v. Thomas Richards & Co., 759 F. Supp. 1456 (C.D. Cal. 1991). The court in both Lindbergh and Johnson followed Masuda in concluding that there is a benign language exception to § 1692f(8). Turning to Masuda, the court (continued … ) 16 No. 18 3119 Because the statutory language neither leads to absurd results nor is ambiguous, resort to legislative history is nei 22 ther necessary nor appropriate. See, e.g., United States v. Sil ( … continued) considered whether a debt collector had violated § 1692f(8) “by includ ing on the outside of envelopes mailed to Masuda (1) notice that theft of mail or obstruction of delivery is a federal crime, (2) the language ‘PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL’ and (3) the phrase ‘Forwarding and Address Correction Requested.’” 759 F. Supp. at 1466. The court acknowledged that the writing appeared to violate the proscription in § 1692f(8). It further acknowledged that, “[i]n some cases, a strict inter pretation of the FDCPA may be necessary to protect consumer privacy and prevent embarrassment to consumers.” Id. (citing S. Rep. No. 95 382 at 2–4 (1977)). It concluded however that “Congress’ interest in protect ing consumers … would not be promoted by proscribing benign lan guage. Congress enacted § 1692f(8) simply to prevent debt collectors from ‘using symbols on envelopes indicating that the contents pertain to debt collection.’” Id. (quoting S. Rep. No. 95 382 at 8). However, courts “are bound by the language of the statute as it is written” and “are not at liberty to rewrite [the] statute because [we] might deem its effects sus ceptible of improvement.” C.I.R. v. Lundy, 516 U.S. 235, 252 (1996) (inter nal quotation marks omitted) (alterations in original). “If the statutory language is unambiguous, and the statutory scheme is coherent and con sistent,” no further analysis is necessary. Kingdomware Techs., Inc. v. Unit ed States, 136 S. Ct. 1969, 1976 (2016) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Masuda court never considered, in the first instance, whether the language of the statute was ambiguous therefore necessitating resort to legislative history. 22 Resort to agency interpretations similarly is unnecessary when the statutory language is clear. See, e.g., United States v. Zuniga Galeana, 799 F.3d 801, 805 (7th Cir. 2015) (“We defer to an administering agency’s in terpretation of a statute only if the statute is ambiguous.”); Vulcan Const. Materials, L.P. v. Fed. Mine Safety and Health Review Comm’n, 700 F.3d 297, 312 (7th Cir. 2012) (determining that, because the statute was not ambig uous, the court need not “reach the question of the proper deference (continued … ) No. 18 3119 17 va, 140 F.3d 1098, 1102 (7th Cir. 1998) (“If the language is un ambiguous, we need not resort to legislative history or other sources to glean the legislative intent of the statute.”). The statutory language does, in fact, prohibit debt collectors from sending communications to consumers in envelopes bearing symbols that are indicative of debt collection. The language of the statute simply draws a clear line to ensure that consumers’ rights are not lost in the interpretation of more subtle language. As one court has explained, [t]his approach provides certainty to debt col lectors and avoids the problem of having to decide on a case by case basis what language or symbols intrude into the privacy of the debtor or otherwise constitute “an unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect a debt.” [15 U.S.C.] § 1692f. Congress ( … continued) owed to the Secretary’s interpretation of the statute”). In this case, the clear language of the statute makes it unnecessary for us to consider the Federal Trade Commission Staff Commentary on the Fair Debt Collec tion Practices Act, 53 Fed. Reg. 50097 (Dec. 13, 1988), on which Midland relies to support its argument that we should recognize a benign language exception. Even if we needed agency guidance, however, the Commentary acknowledges that it is “not a formal … rule or advisory opinion” and is “not binding on the Commission or the public.” Id. at 50101. Moreover, the CFPB, the agency now charged with administration and enforcement of the FDCPA, see 15 U.S.C. § 1692l(b)(6), (d); 12 U.S.C. § 5512(b)(1), (4), has expressed a contrary view: Based on the plain mean ing of the statute, the use of any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s name or address (“if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business”) violates § 1692f(8). See Amicus Br. (CFPB) 11. 18 No. 18 3119 wrote into the law a bright line rule with re spect to markings on envelopes sent to debtors and authorized the award of damages to debt ors if debt collectors violate the plain language of § 1692f(8). Palmer v. Credit Collection Servs., Inc., 160 F. Supp. 3d 819, 822–23 (E.D. Pa. 2015). In providing certainty, this provision furthers the FDCPA’s overall purpose of “eliminat[ing] abu sive debt collection practices by debt collectors” and “in sur[ing] that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively dis advantaged.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692(e). In sum, the meaning of § 1692f(8) is clear: When a debt collector communicates with consumers through the mails, it may not use any language or symbol on the envelope except for its business name or address, as long as the name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business. Turn ing to the facts here, there is no question that the language “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” appears on the envelope enclosing a communication to a consumer. It is equally ap parent that the language at issue does not fall within the itemized exception set forth in subsection (8): It is not Mid land’s name nor its address. The inclusion of this phrase thus violates § 1692f(8), and the district court erred in dis missing the claim set forth in Count I of Mr. Preston’s com plaint. B. Mr. Preston also maintains that the combination of the language of the discounted offers, the statement that Mid land was not obligated to renew the offers, and the words No. 18 3119 19 “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” on the envelope, consti tuted both a false representation of the character and legal 23 status of any debt in violation of § 1692e(2)(A) and a “false representation or deceptive means to collect … a debt” un 24 der § 1692e(10). We evaluate § 1692e claims under the un sophisticated consumer standard, see, e.g., Walker v. Nat’l Re covery, Inc., 200 F.3d 500, 501 (7th Cir. 1999), and “ask whether someone of modest education and limited commer cial savvy would likely be deceived by the letter,” O’Boyle v. Real Time Resolutions, Inc., 910 F.3d 338, 344 (7th Cir. 2018). 23 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(A) provides: A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or mis leading representation or means in connection with the col lection of any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section: … (2) The false representation of— (A) the character, amount, or legal status of any debt … . 24 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(10) provides: A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or mis leading representation or means in connection with the col lection of any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section: … (10) The use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to ob tain information concerning a consumer. 20 No. 18 3119 “[I]f it is ‘apparent from a reading of the letter that not even a significant fraction of the population would be misled by it,’ then plaintiff fails to state a claim and dismissal is appro priate.” Id. at 342 (quoting Zemeckis v. Glob. Credit & Collec 25 tion Corp., 679 F.3d 632, 636 (7th Cir. 2012)). Mr. Preston’s allegations closely mirror those that we ad dressed in Evory. In that case, the plaintiffs complained that the following language violated § 1692e: “[W]e would like to offer you a unique oppor tunity to satisfy your outstanding debt”—“a settlement of 25% OFF of your current balance. SO YOU ONLY PAY $[____] In ONE 25 As an initial matter, Mr. Preston maintains that the district court never should have granted Midland’s motion to dismiss his § 1692e claims be cause Midland’s “Motion to Dismiss only sought to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim that the Collection Letter Envelope violated Section 1692f(8).” Ap pellant’s Br. 18. Like the district court, we disagree with Mr. Preston’s characterization of Midland’s motion. Midland clearly requested dismis sal of Mr. Preston’s entire complaint. See R.20 at 8. Additionally, in its memorandum in support of its motion, Midland included an argument with the heading “M[idland’s] collection letter and envelope do not cre ate a false sense of urgency[.]” Id. at 6 (bold removed). Although it did not mention explicitly § 1692e, Midland discussed in detail our decision in Evory, which created safe harbor language that debt collectors may use to avoid violations of § 1692e. In its memorandum, Midland argued that Evory disposed of Mr. Preston’s claim that the envelope and letter together “create[d] a false sense of urgency,” and Midland specifically referenced allegations that Mr. Preston had made in Count III of his complaint (seeking relief under § 1692e). R.20 at 7–8. Midland also ad dressed the merits of Mr. Preston’s claims that the language of the dis counted offers standing alone violated § 1692e. See id. at 8 n.2. Conse quently, there is no merit to Mr. Preston’s waiver argument. No. 18 3119 21 PAYMENT that must be received no later than 40 days from the date on this letter.” Or “TIME’S A WASTIN’! ... Act now and receive 30% off ... if you pay by March 31st.” Or we are “currently able to offer you a substantial dis count of 50% off your Current Balance if we re ceive payment by 05–14–2004 [.]” Evory, 505 F.3d at 775. In evaluating this language, we noted that “[t]here is nothing improper about making a settlement offer.” Id. Nevertheless, because debt collectors “frequently renew their offers if the consumer fails to accept the initial offer,” we were concerned that “unsophisticated consumers may think that if they don’t pay by the deadline, they will have no further chance to settle their debt for less than the full amount.” Id. We also noted, however, that requiring debt collectors to disclose their exact settlement policies “would disintegrate” the debt collection process. Id. To ac commodate the competing goals of the statute, we fashioned a safe harbor that would protect the consumer “against re ceiving a false impression of his options” while encouraging debt collectors to make settlement offers. Id. at 775–76. We rested on the following language: “We are not obligated to renew this offer.” Id. at 776. We reasoned that this statement would inform the unsophisticated consumer “that there [wa]s a renewal possibility but that it [wa]s not assured.” Id. Mr. Preston’s communication, like that of the plaintiffs in Evory, included language—“Act now,” “TIME SENSITIVE 26 DOCUMENT,” and time limits on the settlement offers— 26 R.1 ¶¶ 27, 38 (bold removed). 22 No. 18 3119 that suggested that the consumer had to settle his debt in the most expeditious manner possible. However, at the end of Mr. Preston’s letter, Midland also included safe harbor lan guage as in Evory: “We are not obligated to renew any offers 27 provided.” The inclusion of this language cured any misimpression that an unsophisticated consumer might have formed concerning the meaning of the settlement offers. Mr. Preston submits, however, that the language of his letter is more egregious and, therefore, that Evory’s safe harbor language should not shield Midland from liabil ity under § 1692e. He maintains that the words “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” on the envelope of the communi cation, as well as the location of the safe harbor language in the body of the communication, renders Evory’s safe harbor language ineffectual. We cannot accept these contentions. In Evory, our concern was “that unsophisticated consumers may think that if they don’t pay by the deadline, they will have no further chance to settle their debt for less than the full amount.” 505 F.3d at 775. The words “TIME SENSITVE DOCUMENT” on Mr. Preston’s envelope simply reiterate the message in the communication itself, which urges the debtor to “[a]ct now” and sets forth an expiration date for the offer. Words of urgency were precisely what was at issue in Evory and what the safe harbor language was meant to address. Similarly, the placement of the safe harbor language in Mr. Preston’s communication does not negate its effect. Mr. Preston relies on Boucher v. Finance System of Green Bay, 27 Id. ¶ 36. No. 18 3119 23 Inc., 880 F.3d 362 (7th Cir. 2018), in which we observed that “a debt collector is only entitled to safe harbor protection if the information he furnishes is accurate and he does not ob scure it by adding confusing other information (or misin formation).” Id. at 370 (internal quotation marks omitted). He submits that “the formatting [of] the letter purposefully pushes the ‘safe harbor’ language to a place on the letter where its application and contest [sic] is rendered meaning 28 less.” In essence, Mr. Preston maintains that the safe harbor is without effect unless it immediately follows the language of the offers. We cannot accept this contention. The safe harbor language appears on the face of the letter in the same font and font size as the offer language. It is not lost in unnecessary verbiage, but is set apart and centered on a line. It is not obscured in any way. Here, Midland accurately and appropriately used the safe harbor language we fashioned in Evory. Consequently, the district court did not err in dismissing the claim set forth 29 in Counts III and IV of Mr. Preston’s complaint. 28 Appellant’s Br. 21. 29 Following oral argument, Mr. Preston moved for “leave to cite to addi tional collection letters sent to him in response to question posed during oral argument.” See App. R. 34 1 (capitalization removed). On its face, the motion purports to supply three additional letters sent to Mr. Preston to establish that the discounted offers in fact were renewed. In reality, Mr. Preston is using what should be a perfunctory motion to provide more fulsome responses to oral argument questions and to reargue his case. We therefore deny Mr. Preston’s motion. We note, however, that, even if we had allowed the submission of the additional letters, it would not have altered our analysis. In Evory, we (continued … ) 24 No. 18 3119 C. Lastly, Mr. Preston contends that Midland violated § 1692e because its description of the offers in the communi cation were “meaningless, confusing, misleading and convo 30 luted.” Mr. Preston acknowledges that the letter states: “Act now to maximize your savings and put this debt be 31 hind you.” He further acknowledges that the letter identi fies “two discounted payment options, one for 40% off the 32 balance and another at 20% off the balance.” Nevertheless, he maintains that the letter is confusing because it “does not explain how being ‘pre approved for a discount program’ and making one of the two discounted payment options will 33 impact the remainder of the debt.” Mr. Preston suggests that the reader is left to wonder whether “the debt [will] be written off? Will the debt be sold to another debt owner? ( … continued) observed that debt collectors “frequently renew their offers if the con sumer fails to accept the initial offer,” and we fashioned the safe harbor language so that unsophisticated consumers would not conclude that “they w[ould] have no further chance to settle their debt for less than the full amount.” 505 F.3d at 775. Here, the letters merely show that Midland did renew its offers to Mr. Preston. This is an eventuality anticipated by Evory and therefore encompassed within its holding. 30 Appellant’s Br. 22. 31 Id. 32 Id. at 21. 33 Id. No. 18 3119 25 [Or] [w]ill another debt collector attempt to collect the re 34 maining amounts?” As we have noted, we evaluate § 1692e claims under the unsophisticated consumer standard. O’Boyle, 910 F.3d at 344. The unsophisticated consumer “possesses rudimentary knowledge about the financial world, is wise enough to read collection notices with added care, possesses ‘reasonable in telligence,’ and is capable of making basic logical deductions and inferences.” Pettit v. Retrieval Masters Creditor Bureau, Inc., 211 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2000). Consequently, in evaluating § 1692e claims, we “ask ‘whether a person of modest education and limited commercial savvy would be likely to be deceived’ by the debt collector’s representation.” Dunbar v. Kohn Law Firm, S.C., 896 F.3d 762, 764 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting Evory, 505 F.3d at 774). Here, we do not share Mr. Preston’s concern that the lan guage of the communication will plague the unsophisticated consumer with doubt about the effect of the payoff options. Midland’s letter congratulates the consumer on being “pre approved for a discount program designed to save you money,” invites the consumer to “[a]ct now to … put this debt behind you,” gives two discounted payment options, and indicates that the consumer can save up to $1,235.22 by 35 taking advantage of the offers. Read literally, the meaning of the letter is clear: If the consumer takes advantage of one of the discounted payoff options, he will be rid of the debt. A consumer who interpreted the letter to mean that the debt 34 Id. at 22. 35 R.1 ¶¶ 26, 37; Appellant’s Br. 5. 26 No. 18 3119 could survive the payoff and be sold to another debt collec tor either would be misreading the words or engaging in a flight of fancy. Such interpretations do not suffice to state a claim under § 1692e. See Dunbar, 896 F.3d at 765 (rejecting the plaintiff’s argument in part because it would have re quired the “unsophisticated consumer” to “understand the word ‘may’ to mean ‘will’”); Gruber v. Creditors’ Prot. Serv., Inc., 742 F.3d 271, 274 (7th Cir. 2014) (noting that the unso phisticated consumer “does not interpret [collection letters] in a bizarre or idiosyncratic fashion”). Moreover, the letter is written using common sales language—“discount,” “40% off,” “20% off”—that consumers regularly encounter. Be cause “it is apparent from a reading of the letter that not even a significant fraction of the population would be misled by it,” Zemeckis v. Global Credit & Collection Corp., 679 F.3d 632, 636 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted), the district court properly dismissed Mr. Preston’s § 1692e claims. Conclusion For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the judgment of dis trict court dismissing Mr. Preston’s claims under § 1692e. However, we reverse the district court’s judgment dismiss ing Mr. Preston’s claim under § 1692f(8) and remand for fur ther proceedings consistent with this opinion. We express no view on whether the class Mr. Preston seeks to represent should be certified. Each party will bear its costs in this ap peal. AFFIRMED in part; REVERSED and REMANDED in part No. 18 3119 27 ROVNER, Circuit Judge, concurring. My colleague has penned a thorough and well reasoned opinion in all respects and has done a great service to this circuit and, one hopes, others in clarifying that the plain language of the statute does not contain a benign language exemption. I join the opinion in full. I write separately simply to point out one ar ea in which the clarity from our circuit could be improved regarding the second issue for our review—the matter of safe harbor language for claims under section 1692e of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692e. As section B of the opinion makes clear, in Evory v. RJM Acquisitions Funding L.L.C., 505 F.3d 769 (7th Cir. 2007), this court noted the tension between allowing creditors to use persuasive language to recover debts, and protecting unso phisticated consumers from “false, deceptive or misleading representations.” See 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(A); Evory, 505 F.3d at 775 76. In other words, creditors often use language that implies that debtors only have a limited time to take ad vantage of a settlement offer, when, in fact, most creditors continue to renew their offers, and would be pleased to col lect a creditor’s money at any time. As the opinion notes, “[t]o accommodate the competing goals of the statute, we fashioned a safe harbor that would protect the consumer ‘against receiving a false impression of his options’ while en couraging debt collectors to make settlement offers.” Ante at 20 (citing Evory, 505 F.3d at 775–76). That safe harbor lan guage is as follows: “We are not obligated to renew this of fer.” I have doubts that this language actually accommodates the competing goals that the Evory court identified. In fact, the current safe harbor language emphasizes and amplifies 28 No. 18 3119 the creditor’s message that it is a time limited offer. The lan guage is no different from the creditors’ language of “limited time offer” or a “time sensitive matter,” or “act now,” and reinforces the idea that if the debtor does not act immediate ly, she may lose the opportunity to do so forever. See Evory, 505 F.3d at 775. (“The concern is that unsophisticated con sumers may think that if they don’t pay by the deadline, they will have no further chance to settle their debt for less than the full amount”). As such, I propose that this circuit reconsider whether the language of the safe harbor provi sion announced in Evory realistically honors the goals that the opinion sought. Adding the following two words to the language, undoubtedly would do so more accurately: “We may, but are not obligated to, renew this offer.” The safe harbor language described in the Evory decision, however, stands. As the opinion notes, Midland Credit used the language that this circuit sanctioned, and did so appro priately. Consequently, under the current status of our cir cuit’s law, I agree that the district court did not err in dis missing the claims set forth pursuant to section 1692e of the Act. Preston did not raise the question of the safe harbor language in this case, and therefore this is not the appropri ate time to reconsider it, but should it emerge in a future case, I urge the court to reexamine whether this safe harbor language achieves the intended balance between the inter ests of creditors and debtors.
Primary Holding
The words “TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENT” on an envelope containing a collection letter violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

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