The Minnesota Department of Commerce on Friday issued new guidance to collection agencies that have collectors working from home, reminding the companies that, among other things, they are responsible for supervising employees working from home to ensure that consumer information and data are being protected.
A copy of the guidance is available by clicking here. It was released to coincide with the news that Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz was extending the Stay at Home order and peacetime emergency declaration regarding is response to the coronavirus pandemic through June 12. It had been set to expire last week.
Under normal circumstances, collectors must work from a licensed location or branch office and are not allowed to work from home. The Department of Commerce, following a state of emergency that was declared in Minnesota in mid-March because of COVID-19, implemented the guidance allowing debt collectors to work from home to stay safe during the pandemic. As long as the following criteria are met, the state will not take any action against a licensed collection agency that has registered collectors work from home as a precautionary measure, provided:
- The activity is conducted from the home location of an individual working on behalf of a Minnesota licensee;
- The individual is working from home due to a reason relating to the COVID-19 outbreak and has informed the licensee of such reason.
- None of the activity will be conducted in person with members of the public from the home location; and
- The licensee shall, at all times, exercise supervision of the activity being performed at the home office and ensure that appropriate safeguards and controls are in place to protect consumer information and data.
The state did not offer any guidance or details about how a collection agency may supervise employees to ensure that consumer information and data are being protected.