The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Friday released its long-awaited and much anticipated debt collection rule, well most of it really, and the initial reaction from the accounts receivable management industry was fairly positive.
On Friday, just a couple of hours after the rule was released, AccountsRecovery.net held a webinar with a panel of leading experts from across the industry — John Bedard from The Bedard Law Group, Stefanie Jackman from Ballard Spahr, Joann Needleman from Clark Hill, and Rick Perr from Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck. The panel shared their reactions and overviews of what was included and not included in the rule, along with the questions they would seek to get answered as they read and re-read the rule to understand its provisions. Overall, the panel noted, there appeared to be no provisions or restrictions in the rule that should cause collection agencies to lose a lot of sleep, if any.
“I think it’s something that we in the industry can work with,” Perr said. “I think it’s fair and balanced both as from ourselves as consumers understanding that, you know, we can be subjected to calls or contact. So all in all, it is more treat than trick.”
That said, there are some issues that companies are going to have to work out, especially if they plan on using the limited content message provided by the Bureau. The limited content message would not count as a communication under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which could be enough incentive for companies to use it, but one of the provisions is that when leaving the message, a collector can not use a business name that indicates the company is in the collection business. This led many of the webinar’s attendees to ask questions about what words might trigger a problem when using the limited content message. Plaintiffs’ lawyers will likely test which words in a company name are ok or not ok by filing lawsuits to see how judges react, the panel predicted.
At the end of the day, though, the industry should breathe a sigh of relief over the components of the rule.
“I’m pleased to see that we have something now we have some guidelines, we have some guardrails, and we have a mechanism to ask for more clarity in the future,” Bedard said. “And so do consumers. Because ultimately, what we really want is for industry and consumers to be on the same page about what to expect of each other’s behavior. And I think I think this is the beginnings of that, of that journey of that process.”