Details are starting to come together for a hearing that is scheduled for tomorrow before the House Financial Services Committee on the subject of “Examining Legislation to Protect Consumers and Small Business Owners from Abusive Debt Collection Practices,” including the list of witnesses and the 10 bills that will be discussed.
A webcast of the hearing will be available here.
As of right now, the witness list for the hearing is heavily weighted toward the consumer side of the debt collection equation, with only two of the six witnesses representing the industry’s interests. The list of witnesses for the hearing are:
- Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, Pastor, Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church (Jefferson City, MO) and Executive Director, Missouri Faith Voices
- Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director, New York Taxi Workers Alliance
- April Kuehnhoff, Staff Attorney, National Consumer Law Center
- Prof. Dalié Jiménez, Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law
- Sarah Auchterlonie, Shareholder, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
Auchterlonie worked with ACA International on its comment about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed debt collection rule. Also expected to testify is industry luminary John Bedard of the Bedard Law Group. Bedard’s name is not yet on the official witness list, but ACA did mention his participation in an article about the hearing.
This is the first collection-related hearing before the Financial Services Committee in six years. A hearing was originally scheduled for June, but was postponed without providing a reason.
Among the bills that are to be discussed during the hearing are:
- H.R. 4403, the “Stop Debt Collection Abuse Act” [DRAFT]. This is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Emmanuel Cleaver and French Hill that extends FDCPA to collectors of debt owed to a federal agency, and limits the fees collectors can charge. The bill also clarifies that debt buyers are subject to FDCPA, and it requires a GAO study on the use of debt collectors by local, state and federal agencies. H.R. 4403 is similar to a bipartisan bill from the 115th Congress sponsored by former Reps. Mia Love and Keith Ellison and Reps. Cleaver and Hill.
- H.R. 3490, the “Small Business Lending Fairness Act” [DRAFT]. This is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Nydia Velasquez and Roger Marshall that restricts the use of predatory confessions of judgment for small business owners.
- H.R. 3498, the “Debt Collection Practices Harmonization Act” [DRAFT]. This is a bill sponsored by Rep. Gregory Meeks that extends FDCPA to cover debt owed to a state or local government and adds protections to consumers affected by national disasters.
- H.R. ____, the “Monitoring and Curbing Abusive Debt Collection Practices Act” [DRAFT]. This is a discussion draft sponsored by Rep. Ayanna Pressley that requires CFPB to produce quarterly reports analyzing consumer complaints regarding debt collection. The bill also prohibits the CFPB from issuing a final rule on debt collection that allows unlimited email or texts from debt collectors to consumers.
- H.R. ____, the “Small Business Fair Debt Collection Protection Act” [DRAFT]. This is a discussion draft that expands FDCPA’s protections to cover small business loans, as determined by CFPB in consultation with the Small Business Administration.
- H.R. ____, the “Non-Judicial Foreclosure Debt Collection Clarification Act” [DRAFT]. This is a discussion draft that reverses the Supreme Court decision in Obduskey v. McCarthy and Holthus LLP by amending FDCPA to clarify that entities in non-judicial foreclosure proceedings are covered by the law.
- H.R. ____, the “Equal Protections for Debt Collection Practices Act” [DRAFT]. This is a discussion draft to require that creditors who collect on debts to their own customers may not use more aggressive tactics as third-party debt collectors and must abide by the limitations under the FDCPA.
- H.R.____, the “Consumer Protections for Medical Debt Collections Act” [DRAFT]. This is a discussion draft that would bar entities from collecting medical debt or reporting it to a consumer reporting agency without giving a consumer notice about their rights under FDCPA and FCRA related to that debt, including a minimum one-year delay before adverse information is reported to a consumer reporting agency. This draft is based, in part, on S. 1581, the Medical Debt Relief Act, sponsored by Sen. Merkley.
- H.R.____, the “Fair Debt Collection Practices for Servicemembers Act” [DRAFT]. This is a discussion draft that would prohibit debt collectors from communicating with the commanding officer or officer in charge of any servicemember regarding an outstanding debt, and it would strengthen related prohibitions about false or misleading representations to servicemembers. This is based on S. 3334, the Military Lending Improvement Act from the 115th Congress, sponsored by former Sen. Bill Nelson.
- H.R.____, the “Strengthen Legal Protections on Debt Collections Act” [DRAFT]. This is a discussion draft that would prohibit partial payments or any acknowledgment of the debt by a consumer from restarting any previously applicable statute of limitation that has expired.
A memorandum about the hearing goes to great lengths to mention all of the negative perceptions and stereotypes about debt collection, but fails to mention anything about the benefits to the economy provided by collectors. Based on the memorandum and the list of witnesses, it’s not hard to guess what the tone and tenor of tomorrow’s hearing is likely to take.