Submitted: March 14, 2019
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - St. Paul
GRUENDER, BENTON, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.
GRUENDER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Inc., which is licensed and does business in Minnesota as
Credit Collections Bureau, sent Dina Klein a debt collection
letter under the business name "Credit Collections
Bureau" in March 2017. Klein filed a lawsuit, arguing
that the content of the letter violated the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). 15 U.S.C.
§ 1692. The district court granted Credico's motion to
dismiss, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), and Klein
appeals. We affirm.
letter included the words
"CREDIT-COLLECTIONS-BUREAU" in the top right
corner. Several lines below the letter included the words
"PROFESSIONAL DEBT COLLECTORS." The letter also
said that if Klein's debt was not paid and if it was
necessary to file a lawsuit to collect the debt, "it
could result in a judgment . . . and that judgment could
include . . . pre-judgment interest." The letter was
sent to Klein in Minnesota and signed by three people,
including Kathy Mitchell, who was not registered to collect
debts in Minnesota. Below the signatures, the letter stated,
"Pay on-line or correspond with CCB at
district court determined that the use of "PROFESSIONAL
DEBT COLLECTORS" and "CCB" was not false or
misleading when viewed through the eyes of an unsophisticated
consumer, and it further determined that the use was
nevertheless immaterial. The district court also held that
Mitchell's signature and the statement that Credico could
seek pre-judgment interest did not violate the FDCPA. Klein
appeals the district court's rulings on each of these
aspects of the letter.
review a grant of a motion to dismiss de novo."
Keating v. Neb. Pub. Power Dist., 562 F.3d 923, 927
(8th Cir. 2009). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). A claim is
facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
first argues that Credico violated the FDCPA by including
"PROFESSIONAL DEBT COLLECTORS" in the top right
hand corner of the letter and by including the statement that
Klein could "[p]ay on-line or correspond with CCB at
www.payccb.com" at the bottom of the letter.
The FDCPA provides that "[a] debt collector may not use
any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means
in connection with the collection of any debt." §
1692e. This includes "[t]he use of any business,
company, or organization name other than the true name of the
debt collector's business, company, or
organization." § 1692e(14). Klein argues that the
use of "PROFESSIONAL DEBT COLLECTORS" and the
acronym "CCB" violated § 1692e(14) because
they are organization names other than Credico's true
"evaluating whether a debt collection letter is false,
misleading, or deceptive in violation of § 1692e, the
letter must be viewed through the eyes of an unsophisticated
consumer." Peters v. Gen. Serv. Bureau, Inc.,
277 F.3d 1051, 1055 (8th Cir. 2002). The district court
correctly determined that an unsophisticated consumer would
not think that including "PROFESSIONAL DEBT
COLLECTORS" and "CCB" in the letter is false
or misleading. An unsophisticated consumer would understand
that "PROFESSIONAL DEBT COLLECTORS" and
"CCB" respectively describe and reference Credico.
We agree with Credico that CCB is a commonsense abbreviation
of Credit Collections Bureau, Credico's other registered
name and the name it used in its letter to Klein, not a
different company. And we agree that "PROFESSIONAL DEBT
COLLECTORS" clearly describes what Credit Collections
Bureau is. Further, Credico's letter provided Klein with
a correct registered name, its phone number, its website, the
balance due, and a name and phone number for her assigned
Klein argues the district court "erred in dismissing
[her] case at the pleading stage based on the court's
conjecture as to how an unsophisticated consumer would
interpret a collection letter," the unsophisticated
consumer test contains an "objective element of
reasonableness" that "prevents liability for
bizarre or idiosyncratic interpretations of collection
notices." Id. at 1055-56 (concluding "as a
matter of law" that there was no violation of §
1692e). The district court's determination was not based
on conjecture. Rather, it was based on the correct objective
determination that an unsophisticated consumer would not have
viewed Credico's statements as false, deceptive, or
misleading. See id. at 1056 ("[S]tatements that
are merely 'susceptible of an ingenious misreading'
do not violate the FDCPA."). Thus, Klein has not pleaded
sufficient factual matter to state a plausible claim that
Credico violated § 1692e by including "PROFESSIONAL
DEBT COLLECTORS" and "CCB" in its letter to
Klein argues that Credico's letter violated the FDCPA
because the letter was signed by Mitchell, "who [was]
not licensed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce to
engage in debt collection activities in Minnesota."
See Minn. Stat. § 332.33. The FDCPA stipulates
that "[a] debt collector may not use unfair or
unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any
debt." § 1692f. The statute lists conduct that it
considers "unfair or unconscionable," and Klein
argues that Mitchell's signature violates §
1692f(1), which prohibits "[t]he collection of any
amount . . . unless such amount is expressly authorized by
the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law"
because "Minnesota law requires all individual debt
collectors to obtain licenses as a prerequisite to collecting
consumer debts in Minnesota."
FDCPA "was not meant to convert every violation of a
state debt collection law into a federal violation."
Carlson v. First Revenue Assur., 359 F.3d 1015, 1018
(8th Cir. 2004). Here, the relevant signature was one of
three signatures on the letter, and the other two signatories
were both registered to collect debts in Minnesota. Further,
Credico, doing business as Credit Collections Bureau, is
licensed to collect debts in Minnesota, so it could legally
collect the debt, and Mitchell's signature was not an
unfair or unconscionable means to attempt to collect a debt.
Cf. Goetze v. CRA Collections, Inc., No. 15-3169,
2017 WL 5891693 at *3 (D. Minn. Nov. 28, 2017) (finding that
the collection agency violated the FDCPA by engaging in
collection activities "without first being
licensed"). Thus, we agree with the district court that
Klein has not pleaded sufficient factual matter to state a
plausible claim that Credico violated §1692f(1) by
having Mitchell be one of the signatories to the letter.
Klein argues that Credico improperly attempted "to
collect prejudgment interest" because Minnesota Statute
section 549.09 does not allow the recovery of pre-judgment
interest here. She claims this attempt also violated §
1692f(1). Credico's letter said, "When suit is
filed, it could result in a judgment against you and that
judgment could include . . . pre-judgment interest."
Credico agrees that it could not have collected pre-judgment
interest under section ...