Debt Collection Laws Are Due for an Update

collection-letters-in-drawerA lot has changed since Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in 1977. Technology, music, and fashion are just a few examples. But over 35 years later, the FDCPA is mostly the same as it was back in the disco era.

The good news is that an update is finally in the works. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act gives the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) the power to enact administrative regulations that supplement the FDCPA. The CFPB is now asking both consumers and the debt collection industry for help as it prepares to write new regulations that would increase protection against abusive collection practices.

They’ve Got Questions, You’ve Got Answers

The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking lists 162 questions being asked by the CFPB. Here are five that show the CFPB wants to bring debt collection law into the 21st century:

  • Question 56: What complications or compliance issues do social media present for consumers or collectors in the debt collection process? How, if at all, should collector communications via social media be treated differently from other types of communications under debt collection rules? What privacy concerns are raised by various social media platforms?
  • Question 65: A main purpose of designating certain hours in the FDCPA as presumptively convenient apparently was to prevent the telephone from ringing while consumers or their families were asleep. Do similar concerns exist for other technologies? Should any distinction be made between the effect of a telephone ringing and an audio alert associated with another type of message delivery, such as email or text message, if a mobile phone is on during the night?
  • Question 82: How should a rule treat recorded messages, if at all? What benefits do recorded messages (as distinct from live phone calls) offer to debt collectors or consumers?
  • Question 86: Should debt collectors be prohibited from blocking or altering the telephone number or identification information transmitted when making a telephone call, for example by blocking the name of the company or the caller’s phone number or by changing the phone number to a local area code? What technological issues might complicate or ease compliance with regulation regarding caller-ID technologies?
  • Question 118: Should proposed rules require collectors to obtain consent before contacting consumers using a medium that might result in charges to the consumer, such as text messaging or mobile calls? If so, what sort of consent should be required and how should collectors be required to obtain it?

Give Washington Your Two Cents

The debt collection industry will surely submit its comments, so it’s important for the CFPB to hear from consumers as well. If you’d like to tell the CFPB your thoughts on their questions, you can submit comments online. Be sure to include the number of the each question to which you’re responding.

Comments can also be submitted by letter to:

Monica Jackson
Office of the Executive Secretary
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
1700 G Street NW
Washington DC  20552-0003

Mailed comments should include the agency name (“Consumer Financial Protection Bureau”) and docket number “CFPB–2013–0033.”

All comments are due by February 28, 2014.

Matt Conrad is an Indianapolis bankruptcy attorney and the founder of Conrad Legal LLC, which helps people in Central Indiana get out of debt with Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

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