What Happens Next?

While the debate over when Regulation F is going to go into effect may be over for now, the announcement from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may have just been the closing of one chapter and the opening of another in the saga over regulating debt collection in the United States. For anyone who read beyond “will take effect as planned, on November 30, 2021” in the CFPB’s press release, there was a statement that may send chills up the collective spines of the accounts receivable management industry while a press release from the National Consumer Law Center that was issued yesterday may raise the industry’s blood pressure higher than what it already is.

In the last paragraph of its announcement, the CFPB said it “will consider additional guidance for debt collectors, including those that service mortgage loans, as necessary.” If you’re into parsing statements, what do you think “additional guidance” could mean? More rules? Changes to the rules that are going into effect on November 30? I have been accused on multiple occasions of reading too much into things like this, and I may very well be doing that here. It’s nine words at the bottom of a press release. But it might be a clue to what the CFPB has on the horizon. There are many across the industry who believe that a new leadership regime atop the CFPB is going to do something to counteract Regulation F because it does not protect consumers enough and is too friendly to the ARM industry. Could this statement portend what is on the horizon?

Similarly, in a press release criticizing the decision to “move forward with flawed debt collection rules,” the NCLC called on the CFPB to revisit the rule in the future, while also calling on states “to enact additional protections to prevent vulnerable families still recovering from the pandemic from harassing and abusive debt collection practices.”

Many in the industry have noted that the NCLC has been very effective at getting states to enact medical debt collection laws in recent years, pointing to laws that have gone into effect in Maryland, Nevada, and other states that regulate how medical debts are to be collected. The industry should be on its toes to be aware if similar efforts are undertaken at the state level to further regulate debt collection activity in the wake of Regulation F’s enactment.

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