On July 27, 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released new FAQs in connection with the Debt Collection Rule set forth in Regulation F. The new FAQs address electronic communication requirements and opt-out notices, as well as restrictions on third-party communications.

Among other things, these updated FAQs address electronic communication issues such as whether a debt collector is required to communicate electronically with a consumer (answer: no), what is a reasonable and simple method for consumers to opt-out of electronic communications (examples include a hyperlink or allowing the consumer to reply with the word “stop”), and whether the general prohibition on third-party communications applies to electronic communications (answer: yes). The FAQs on electronic communications further clarify that a consumer’s opt-out request is effective even if it does not conform to the debt collector’s opt-out instructions (e.g., the debt collector instructs that the consumer may opt-out by replying “unsubscribe,” but the consumer replies with a request to “stop” or “cancel” electronic communications).

The CFPB also updated its FAQs regarding limitations on communications at unusual or inconvenient times or places. One such FAQ answer notes that the Debt Collection Rule does not define any per-se unusual or inconvenient places, though certain communications media may be known by the debt collector as being associated with a place that the consumer has deemed inconvenient (such as the consumer’s home landline number). The CFPB notes that the prohibition on communicating at unusual or inconvenient places does not prohibit a debt collector from communicating with a consumer through media not associated with a place unless the debt collector knows that the consumer is at an unusual place or knows that the consumer is at a place that the debt collector knows or should know is inconvenient to the consumer.

Practice Point: As the Debt Collection Rule remains relatively new, debt collectors should carefully review guidance such as the updated FAQs to ensure their practices align with the CFPB’s evolving interpretation of the rule. Since the FAQs repeatedly cross-reference the CFPB’s Small Entity Compliance Guide, debt collectors would be wise to familiarize themselves with this resource.