NYC Issues FAQ to Help Comply With Language Access Rule

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs has issued its long-awaited Frequently Asked Questions related to a new Language Access rule that went into effect in late June and will begin being enforced later this month. A copy of the rules can be accessed by clicking here.

Among the areas that are clarified by the FAQs are:

  • Debt collectors can pick and choose which languages they may want to support and whether to provide information in those languages in phone calls and/or in letters. They do not have to provide all language services in all languages, as long as the collector clearly and conspicuously notifies consumers of the services it offers.
  • Debt collectors can choose not to provide any language services to consumers, provided it includes a statement to that effect in the initial validation notice and on its website.
  • Once a collector requests and records a consumer’s language preference, it does not have to request the information from the consumer again in subsequent conversations.
  • There are situations where the rule applies to creditors.
  • The rule does not apply to litigation activities conducted by a licensed attorney.

Under the proposed rule, debt collectors would be required to:

  • Inform consumers — in any initial collection notice and on any public-facing websites maintained by the collector — of the availability of any language access services provided by the collector and of a translation and description of commonly-used debt collection terms in a consumer’s preferred language on the Department’s website;
  • Request, record, and retain, to the extent reasonably possible, a record of the language preference of each consumer from whom the collector attempts to collect a debt; and
  • Maintain a report identifying, by language, the number of consumer accounts on which an employee of the collector attempted to collect a debt in a language other than English, and the number of employees that attempted to collect on such accounts.

Debt collectors would be prohibited from:

  • Providing false, inaccurate, or incomplete translations of any communication to a consumer in the course of attempting to collect a debt; and
  • Misrepresenting or omitting a consumer’s language preference when returning, selling, or referring for litigation any consumer account, where the debt collector is aware of such preference.

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