The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) has been in place for years providing legal protections to consumers and guidelines for debt collectors. A lot has changed since it was implemented, which has left many people confused about exactly how debt collectors must act. This is compounded by the fact that the courts have issued conflicting rulings in various cases, resulting in the debt collectors themselves unsure about what they can and cannot do. To help combat this, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has proposed new rules to provided much needed clarity.
Limited Content Message
“Limited Content Message” is a new term referring to debt collector messages that do not contain sufficient information. This stems from the practice where debt collectors would leave voice mails that don’t contain necessary details. This has allowed them to get away with leaving multiple messages a day.
Email and text messaging weren’t used for collections when the FDCPA was originally written. Today it is a common practice for debt collectors to connect via these technologies. The updated proposal will put limitations in place to help protect consumer privacy and stop harassment from debt collectors.
Workplace Email Communication
There is also a specific section that prohibits debt collectors from using email addresses that are known to be work addresses. This is important as it helps to ensure consumers don’t get in trouble at work due to these types of messages. It is also critical for protecting the privacy of consumers since many workplace email addresses are not private.
Social Media Restrictions
Social media is used for many things today, and it can serve as an easy way for debt collectors to find information about consumers and make contact. The proposal suggests that this is a clear violation of privacy, especially if debt collectors were to post on a public social media page trying to collect a debt.
Electronic Disclosing of Information
If passed, the proposal will require debt collectors to provide all documentation to consumers in a way that they will be able to actually read and understand. When distributing the documentation electronically, they must comply with the E-SIGN Act or some alternative option that ensures the consumer had the opportunity to fully read through the information.
Phone Call Frequency
From a consumer’s point of view, the most important change is likely going to be the limit on the total number of phone calls that a debt collector would be permitted to make in a seven-day period. Additionally, it would limit how many conversations take place during that time period. This is to help prevent harassment by debt collectors.
Help Understanding the Proposal
While the proposed changes are not yet law, it is likely that this proposal, or one very similar, will be passed in the near future. There is bipartisan support for an update to these regulations due largely to the changes in technologies and practices of debt collectors. If you have any questions about this proposal, or any related legal items, please contact us.