The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has categorized the outline of proposals into three main sections: the integrity of the information, communication practices, and consumer understanding. AccountsRecovery.net will provide summaries of each section.
COLLECTOR COMMUNICATION PRACTICES
The CFPB would allow collectors to leave a voicemail message for an individual, as long as no information about the debt is conveyed in the message. In fact, the CFPB even provided language that collectors could use when leaving voicemail messages to ensure that no communication, as defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, is triggered.
For example, a voicemail could state, “This is John Smith calling for David Jones. David, please contact me at 1-800-555-1212.” This would allow collectors to leave such limited-content messages in a voicemail message, with a third-party in a live conversation, or through another method of communication (e.g., in a text message or an email), without triggering the requirement to provide the FDCPA warnings
Collectors would be limited in how often they could attempt to contact individuals, and how many conversations they can have.
The CFPB is also considering applying a contact cap to other categories of communications, such as letters, text messages, and emails.
Because collectors may have or obtain several phone numbers as well as potentially one or more email and mailing addresses for a consumer, the Bureau believes that it would be excessive for a debt collector to make contact attempts through any one of these points of contact more than a certain number of times per week. The Bureau also believes that overall contact attempts by a given debt collector through different points of contact can have the same harassing consequence.
How often collectors can contact third parties when trying to locate individuals would also be limited under the CFPB’s proposal.
Similar to contacting individuals, any contact attempt for a third party would count toward the cap.
When trying to contact individuals, collectors are limited to calling between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. But with more individuals relying on mobile phones as their primary method of communication, and taking numbers with them when they move from one part of the country to another, it can be difficult for a collector to know what time zone an individual is in. If an individual has a cell phone in one area code and a mailing address in a different area code, collectors would be forced to call individuals only when it is convenient in all of the locations that indicate where those individuals might be. The times when a message are sent would also be used to determine the time of communication, not when a message is received by the individual. The clarification is necessary because with emails and text messages, for example, the messages can be read hours after they are sent.
Collectors would be barred from contacting individuals who are at medical facilities, such as hospitals, emergency rooms, and hospices, places of worship, such as churches and synagogues, places of grieving, such as funeral homes, and daycare or childcare facilities. The provision only applies when a collector knows, or should have known, that an individual was at one of those places.
Prohibiting collectors from contacting people at work was under consideration, but was ultimately not included in the proposal because it would leave collectors with a small window for contacting individuals.
Individuals would not need to utter “magic words,” such as “inconvenient” to trigger a collector to stop a communication. If an individual says something along the lines of “It’s not a good time right now,” collectors would be instructed to ask for a more convenient time.
Collectors would also be prohibited from sending emails to the work address of individuals, for fear of violating the FDCPA by disclosing a debt to a third party. It is possible for employers to read the emails of employees, so sending a debt collection notice to the work email of an individual would be allowed only when those individuals provide expressed permission for collectors to use that channel.
INSTANCES WHERE DEBTOR IS DECEASED
In instances where the individual with a debt is deceased, collectors would have to wait 30 days before contacting the spouse or family members of the deceased to discuss collections options. But only specific family members would be eligible to discuss the account. Those individuals include spouses, parents of minors, and “personal representatives,” those who have “been recognized under state probate or estate laws as having responsibilities to perform many of the same functions as executors and administrators.”
Debt buyers would be restricted from placing accounts with collectors who are subject to some prohibition of judgment from collecting debt, or do not have the proper license to collect debt in which the individuals reside.
Collectors would also have to maintain records for up to three years after the final communication with an individual.
This retention requirement would encompass all records the debt collector relied upon for the information in the validation notice and to support claims of indebtedness, for example, the information the debt collector obtained before beginning to collect, the representations the debt collector received from the creditor before beginning to collect, and the records the debt collector relied upon in responding to a dispute. It also would encompass all records related to the debt collector’s interactions with the consumer, for example, written communications to and from the consumer, oral communications to and from the consumer, and individual collector notes.