PRA, a debt collector, sent two letters to the debtor offering to settle the debt at a discounted amount that stated “[w]e are not obligated to renew this offer.” PRA’s second letter contained essentially the same settlement offer as its first letter but with a later deadline. The debtor claimed this language violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692e of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act which forbids debt collectors from threatening to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken or using of any false representation or deceptive means to attempt to collect any debt.
Judge Andrea R. Wood rejected this argument, finding that a debt collector repeating the same settlement offer while also clearly indicating that it is not obligated to renew the offer does not remove it from the safe harbor language the Seventh Circuit espoused in Evory v. RJM Acquisitions Funding L.L.C., 505 F.3d 769, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). There, the court reasoned that “[t]he word `obligated’ [was] strong and even the unsophisticated consumer [would] realize that there [was] a renewal possibility but that it [was] not assured.” Id.
As for the § 1692f claim, the court held that to allow his claim under § 1692f to proceed based on the same conduct that falls within the § 1692e safe harbor would undermine the Seventh Circuit’s solution in Evory. The court briefly addressed PRA’s motion for the Plaintiff to pay its fees under 28 U.S.C § 1927 and concluded the conduct by Bass’s counsel did not reach the level of being unreasonable and vexatious to justify a sanction of fees.