On June 30, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed a consumer’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act “current balance” claim.
Plaintiff Heath Bryant brought an FDCPA claim against defendant Aargon Collection Agency, Inc., alleging Aargon’s collection letter was deceptive because it falsely implied that Bryant’s account balance would increase due to interest and fees. Bryant also argued that Aargon violated the FDCPA by attaching a convenience fee for credit card payments, which Bryant claimed was not authorized by his underlying credit agreement.
Aargon argued that Bryant lacked standing to bring his FDCPA claims, citing the Spokeo decision. The Court rejected Aargon’s Spokeo argument, noting that Bryant had a concrete injury when he alleged a violation of a statutory right to receive certain disclosures.
Aargon also argued that current balance language in its collection letter was identical to the safe harbor language created by the Seventh Circuit. Aargon further contended its current balance language was not misleading because the least sophisticated consumer would know that debts may accrue interest; thus, the current balance language only confirmed a well-known truism. The Court agreed, noting the conditional use of “may” in the collection letter.
As for the convenience fee charge for credit card payments, Aargon argued its statement was not misleading. The collection letter stated: “[c]ertain States require we notify you that a fee of 2% may be assessed for using a credit card if authorized by law.” Aargon argued that its convenience fee provision applied only if permitted by state law, and that charging consumers a convenience fee for credit card payments is not misleading when other free alternatives are provided. The Court agreed in holding that the convenience fee language was conditioned on whether state law would allow the convenience charge.
This case is Heath Bryant v. Aargon Collection Agency, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-14096.