On May 7, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its proposed rule governing debt collection, which would impose new requirements for debt collectors related to when and how a consumer can be contacted and what can and must be said when a consumer is reached. Industry and other stakeholders have long anticipated the proposed rule, which follows a July 2016 outline of proposals and November 2013 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, previously discussed here.
The proposed rule would impose new requirements on “debt collection” calls that would apply in addition to existing TCPA and state requirements, including:
- Call frequency limitations. The proposed rule would generally prohibit collectors from calling consumers more than seven times per week regarding a specific debt and require a collector to wait at least a week before calling the consumer once a conversation takes place. While consumer advocates have argued that this provision would effectively green light seven calls per week in connection with each consumer debt, debt collectors would continue to be subject to preexisting laws that already prescribe requirements for contacting consumers by phone generally, such as the TCPA.
- Text messages as acceptable communication methods with new limitations. The proposed rule acknowledges that text messages are regularly used for debt collection purposes and permits that use subject to certain restrictions, such as requiring instructions that permit the consumer to opt out from receiving messages. The proposed rule would also create a new category of messages called a “limited-content message,” which would only contain certain information and not be deemed a “communication” for purposes of general limitations under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Interested parties should review the proposed rule closely to assess how the new requirements could impact current and future practices. Comments on the proposed rule are due 90 days from publication in the Federal Register, which should take place shortly.