In Salinas v. R.A. Rogers, Inc., debtor Marco Salinas obtained a personal loan that was silent as to whether interest or charges could accrue in the event of default. After Salinas defaulted, debt collector R.A. Rogers, Inc. sent a letter informing him of the total amount due and warning that interest and other charges “may” accrue. Salinas sued and alleged that the collection letter was an improper attempt to induce payment and, therefore, it constituted a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692.
R.A. Rogers moved for summary judgment, arguing that the collection letter “clearly and unambiguously state[d] the amount of the debt” in compliance with the FDCPA and that the “plain statement” that the total amount due, interest, and fees were not undercut by the contingent sentence. The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas granted summary judgment in favor of debt collector R.A. Rogers, finding that, under the Texas Finance Code § 302.002, it could have charged interest up to six percent applied to the principal balance of the loan.
The debtor appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed and found that, “[t]he challenged statement was not false, deceptive, or misleading because it merely expresses a common-sense truism about borrowing – if interest is accruing on the debt, then the amount may go up.”
The Fifth Circuit rejected debtor Salinas’s claim that the collection letter was false as “downright frivolous,” reasoning that the use of the term “in the event” merely expressed a truism that is equivalent to “if,” and does not state that the lender or debt collector would or could collect interest. Finally, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the letter as a whole was neither misleading nor deceptive because even the “unsophisticated” or “least sophisticated” consumer would not conclude that interest or other charges would accrue absent prompt payment. Instead, the collection letter only warned of a possible outcome: an increase in the amount due.