The City Council for the District of Columbia held a hearing last night to discuss a bill that would make permanent changes to how debts are collected in the District, and while the bill still has far to travel to becoming law, it does appear to be moving closer to that point.
ACA International has a comprehensive recap of the hearing, including testimony from a number of industry participants.
The bill being considered was initially enacted as an emergency measure during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is now being considered as a permanent change to how debts are collected.
The bill will need to have a second public hearing before it can be considered by the Council.
“[U]pdates to the District’s debt collection law are sorely needed to protect consumers from a variety of unfair debt practices,” testified Wendy Weinberg, a senior assistant attorney general in the D.C. AG’s office. “The current permanent statute governing debt collection in the District was enacted in 1971, and much of its language remains frozen in time, (it still refers to telegram fees), even though debt collection practices have evolved significantly over the last fifty years. It is outdated and provides inferior protections than many other state laws.”
Under the bills, collectors would be limited to making three phone calls in a seven-day period, while also addressing communications made via email and text messaging. The bills also established that its provisions apply to debt buyers as well as collectors. As well, partial payments or written or oral affirmations of a debt would not restart or extend the statute of limitations. Collectors would also have to be in possession of specific information prior to initiating any collection activity.