The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) goes a long way toward protecting consumers from some of the less ethical members of the debt collection industry. The legislation, which places certain limits on how and when debt collection companies can contact a debtor, was passed in 1977 and as you probably know, a lot’s changed in the past 42 years.
Thankfully, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) seems to be aware that circumstances for borrowers and lenders have changed substantially in recent decades. This past May, the CFPB issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the FDCPA in an attempt to clarify and refine elements of the original legislation that didn’t anticipate innovations like email.
The new rules have yet to go into effect, but presuming the regulation goes through as currently written, there are some helpful changes on the way for anyone dealing with an overdue or charged off debt. Here are the key features of the proposal:
HARD LIMITS ON CALL ATTEMPTS
The FDCPA already bars collectors from calling your home before 8am and after 9pm, but there isn’t currently a specific limit on the number of calls a collector can make.
The new proposal seeks to reconcile this by setting a limit of seven attempts by phone per week. Once the collector has had a conversation with the debtor, they cannot call again for at least one week.
You can easily make the argument that seven calls a week is still quite a few, but a hard cap (even an arguably generous one) is a good start.
SIMPLIFY THE VALIDATION AND DISPUTE PROCESS
You already have the right to request written validation of the debt in question, but the new rules would require collectors to make that information more transparent in their initial communication. This would mean a clear, easy-to-understand itemization of the debt, plus a plain language explanation of your rights.
Perhaps most interesting, however, is the proposed requirement that these collector disclosures include a tear-away reply form that you can easily fill out and send back.
SET RULES ON “NEW” FORMS OF COMMUNICATION
A large portion of the proposal deals with emails, voicemails, text messaging, and other forms of communication that didn’t exist in 1977. The new rules seek to clarify how these mediums can be used lawfully by debt collectors.
Importantly, the proposal offers guidance on how consumers can manage their preferences (so to speak), by allowing them to opt out of certain forms and specify when and how they prefer to be contacted.