While it may seem straightforward, the fact that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau did not explicitly state how collectors should communicate that consumers can opt out of receiving electronic communications like emails and text messages does leave that open to some interpretation. The CFPB call for the opt-out messages to be “clear and conspicuous” and that opting out of receiving such messages needs to be “reasonable and simple” so enter John Bedard of Bedard Law Group to walk through what that means and how collectors need to approach this important provision of the debt collection rule in the latest episode of “You Wanted a Rule, You Got a Rule.”
Instead of providing concrete language to include at the bottom of text messages and emails to instruct consumers how to opt out, the CFPB provides examples of what would constitute an opt-out message that is reasonable, simple, clear, and conspicuous, Bedard noted.
“If at the end of your text message, the Bureau says your text message says ‘Reply stop to stop text messages to this phone number,” that’s a reasonable and simple method,” Bedard said. “And that’s it, they’ve opted out. If you’re sending email, well, then your email can include a hyperlink to a page that has a reasonable and simple method.”
An important component of the opt-out process, Bedard points out, is that when a consumer opts out of a communication method, he or she is doing it for all the accounts that a collector may be working for that particular individual. “So, if you have four accounts in inventory for a consumer, and they opt out of email communication, they are opting out of all email communication on all four of those accounts,” Bedard said. “It’s the same with text messaging. These opt-outs are opt-outs of channels, not opt-outs that are account specific.”
And while collectors have to provide opt-out instructions that are clear, conspicuous, reasonable, and simple, consumers do not have to follow them to opt out, Bedard said. “Debt collectors who are going to be communicating with consumers electronically, including my text messaging, they’re going to have to have a pretty darn reliable way of knowing and understanding the content of inbound communication in those channels,” Bedard said.
See all the videos in this important series, and access the podcast of each episode via Apple, Google, and Spotify by clicking here.