PROVIDENCE – The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a notice of proposed rule-making to modernize the “rules of the road” for debt collection.
The rules are designed to protect consumers from harassment by debt collectors and to clarify how collectors may communicate lawfully using newer technologies – such as voicemails, emails and text messages – that have developed since passage of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in 1977.
Created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the bureau said the rules would set clear “bright-line” limits on the number of calls debt collectors may place to consumers on a weekly basis. It also would spell out how collectors should provide more information to consumers to help them identify debts and respond to collection attempts.
The bureau is taking public comment on the proposed rules before issuing a final regulation.
According to the bureau, the proposed rules would:
- Limit collectors generally to no more than seven attempts by telephone a week to reach a consumer about a specific debt. Once a telephone conversation between the collector and consumer takes place, the debt collector must wait at least a week before calling again.
- Require collectors to send consumers a disclosure with certain information about the debt and related consumer protections. The information would include an itemization of the debt and plain-language information about how a consumer may respond to a collection attempt, including by disputing the debt.
- Clarify how collectors can lawfully use newer wireless communication technologies, such as emails and text messages. It would protect consumers by allowing them to unsubscribe to such communications from collectors or limit the ways they can be contacted while at work or during certain hours It also would clarify how collectors may provide required disclosures electronically.
- Ban a collector from suing or threatening to sue a consumer to collect a debt if the collector knows or should know the statute of limitations has expired. It also would prevent a collector from furnishing information about a debt to a consumer reporting agency unless the collector has communicated about the debt to the consumer, such as by sending a letter.
“The bureau is taking the next step in the rule-making process to ensure we have clear rules of the road where consumers know their rights and debt collectors know their limitations,” said bureau Director Kathleen L. Kraninger, selected last June by President Donald Trump to lead the agency.
Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@PBN.com.