NCLC Proposes New Debt Collection Regulations To The CFPB
The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) has issued recommendations to the CFPB that would further regulate when and in what manner debt collectors can contact consumers.
One recommendation is to prohibit debt collectors from calling cell phones or sending text messages without the consumer actively opting in to receive those calls or texts. The proposal includes hand-dialed calls. This goes beyond the scope of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), even with the FCC's recent rulemaking. Currently the TCPA only applies to auto-dialed calls and calls made with a prerecorded voice.
The NCLC report suggests that the CFPB clarify the FDCPA's prohibition on excessive phone calls. The proposed rule changes include limiting the number of times per week that a collector can call a consumer. The NCLC proposes a three call per week limit. If the debt collector speaks with the consumer, no more calls could be made during that week. The three call limit would include answered and unanswered calls, even ones where no voicemail was left.
The best aspect of this proposed rule is that it clarifies a vague section of the FDCPA, providing guidance to courts, which have been divided as to what constitutes harassment. A bright-line rule would prevent situations where debt collectors call multiple times a day on multiple days of the week. Setting clear standards puts both consumers and debt collectors on notice as to what constitutes harassment under §1692d of the FDCPA.
The NCLC also recommends that the CFPB require that debt collectors notify consumers of their right to request that the collector stop communicating with them. Although §1692c(c) allows consumers to request no further contact (and requires collectors to comply with that request), the FDCPA does not currently require debt collectors to tell consumers about this right. Given that the FDCPA does require collectors to make certain disclosures during the intial contact with a consumer, it's not a large expansion to require that the debt collector also inform consumers of their other rights under the Act.
The NCLC recommendations also address limiting contact via social media, clarifying that all types of contact must be conducted witihn the permissible window stated in the Act (8am to 9pm), and more strict limitations on communications in the workplace. The full report is linked at the top of this post.