A new rule in New York City requiring collection agencies let individuals know if they offer translation or services in languages other than English that went into effect in June will start being enforced today by the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. Collection agencies that collect from individuals living in New York City have been working at understanding the requirements of the rule, and worry that they will have to stop providing services that they may have been providing informally for fear of running afoul of the rule and risking an enforcement action.
The DCWP (formerly known as the Department of Consumer Affairs) this week posted a glossary of terms that collectors are required to point consumers to, by notifying them in collection letters of the glossary’s existence. The glossary offers definitions of words and phrases commonly used in collections, such as creditor, interest, and statute of limitations, in 10 different languages.
“At the very least, the 2 million Limited English Proficiency consumers in this city now have rules to protect them,” said Lorelei Salas, the DCWP commissioner, in a statement. “Now it is not only wrong to withhold from consumers what language access services are available to them – but it is also illegal.”
Under the rule, debt collectors are 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 are 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.