How the Debt Collection Rule Defines Communicate, Communication, and Attempt to Communicate

It might not seem like there is much of a difference on the surface, but to those who are parsing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s debt collection rule, noting how the rule treats the words communicate and communication and how it treats the phrase attempt to communicate can go a long way toward increasing the understanding of how the rule is structured and what is and is not allowed when trying to get in touch with consumers.

In the latest episode of “You Wanted a Rule, You Got a Rule,” John Bedard of the Bedard Law Group breaks down the differences in how those words and phrases are defined, and how it sets up the understanding and compliance with the rest of the rule. You can watch the latest episode in the series by clicking on the video below.

You can see all the episodes in the series by clicking here, or you can go to Spotify, Apple Music, or the Google Play Music store and subscribe to the audio podcast of the series by searching for “You Wanted a Rule, You Got a Rule.”

Under the FDCPA, Bedard notes during the video, Congress “only sought to define the noun communication,” and not “communicate.” “It’s a subtle difference,” he said, but it’s important “because when we talk about debt collectors that communicate, that word has the same meaning as when we talk about when debt collectors have engaged in a communication, right?”

“Attempt to communicate,” meanwhile, has a different definition in the rule. It is defined as “any act to initiate a communication or other contact about a debt, with any person through any medium.” That means, according to Bedard, that voicemails and phone calls where the called party does not pick up the phone, are attempts to communicate. Bedard also said he thinks that requests to connect or become friends on a social media platform meet that definition as well. “So if the debt collector is attempting to communicate with a consumer, and the purpose of their behavior is to communicate about the debt, and the way they initiate that is by sending a friend request to the consumer, that might very well be an attempt to communicate,” he said.

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