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Debt collectors have for years sought guidance on how and when digital messages could be sent to contact consumers. On Tuesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a notice of proposed debt collection regulations that would provide that guidance. The new regulations would expand the potential avenues by which debt collectors could contact consumers and would establish a host of other regulations that would alter debt collection practices. The proposed rulemaking announced by the CFPB is more than 500-pages long and would be the first substantive rules to interpret the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which regulates the debt collection industry.
The CFPB identified several main highlights that the proposed rulemaking would achieve, including establishing a bright-line rule limiting call attempts and telephone conversations, clarifying consumer protection requirements for certain consumer-facing debt collection disclosures, clarifying how debt collectors can communicate with consumers, prohibiting suits on time barred debts, and requiring communication before credit reporting.
The new regulations would allow debt collectors to expand methods of communicating with consumers, such as exploring WhatsApp or other online models. They also, however, restrict the abilities of debt collectors to contact consumers. For example, the proposed rules would cap the number of times a debt collector could call a consumer to seven times in one week, and once the debt collector reached the consumer, it would not be able to contact the individual again for another week. The bureau cited increased clarity and modernizing the legal regime as its goal for the new regulations.
The CFPB’s statement and proposed rules can be found here.