In advance of a hearing today to determine whether a judge will grant a request for a temporary restraining order undoing regulation put into place by the Attorney General of Massachusetts, the AG defended her action in a court brief, painting the industry with a very negative brush.
A copy of the AG’s opposition to the emergency motion for a temporary restraining order in the case of ACA International v. Maura Healey can be accessed by clicking here. The hearing for a temporary restraining order is due to start at 10am today and is available to be watched online. The link to register to watch the livestream of the hearing is here.
Under a section of her brief noted as “Facts,” Healey makes the following statements:
- The Debt Collection Industry Has Long Been Characterized by Aggressive Tactics, Especially the Use of the Telephone
- Debt collectors frequently inundate consumers with phone calls, even after having been asked to stop calling.
- Debt Collectors Continue Business-as-Usual Notwithstanding the Coronavirus
- Debt collectors also continued to use aggressive calling tactics to demand payment from consumers, many of whom were already under significant financial distress.
- Attorney General Healey Promulgates a Regulation that Adapts Debt Collection Practices to the Changed Times
In a weird twist, the AG is also attempting to use the words of ACA International Chief Executive Mark Neeb to support her argument in favor of keeping the regulations in place. Noting that Neeb has made comments regarding the “unprecedented” number of inbound calls that are being received by collection agencies, Healey argued in her brief that the restriction on commercial speech is “appropriately tailored.”
The Attorney General last month enacted emergency regulations aimed at protecting consumers by, among other things, making it an unfair or deceptive act or practice for a debt collector to initiate a communication with any debtor via telephone, unless the collector was responding to a request from a debtor.
ACA International’s argument against the emergency regulations is that they violate the First Amendment by prohibiting only one type of calls — those from third-party debt collectors. The emergency regulations are a content-based restriction on free speech and is thus unconstitutional, the association alleges.