Bureau’s debt collection proposal in Federal Register Tuesday, out for comment until late August

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) proposal that, among other things, would allow debt collectors to attempt to contact consumers up to seven times a week by phone over a specific debt will be out for comment until about Aug. 18, based on a Federal Register notice slated for publication Tuesday.

The proposed rule, announced May 7 by the bureau and released for a 90-day public comment period, would revise the agency’s Regulation F implementing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to make clarifications and prescribe federal rules governing the activities of debt collectors (those covered by the FDCPA).

The proposed rule focuses on debt collection communications and disclosures and also addresses related practices by debt collectors. The CFPB said it is also proposing that FDCPA-covered debt collectors comply with certain additional disclosure-related and record retention requirements pursuant to the bureau’s rulemaking authority under title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank).

The proposed rule would, among other things:

  • Clarify that, subject to certain exceptions, a debt collector is prohibited from placing a telephone call to a person more than seven times within a seven-day period or within seven days after engaging in a telephone conversation with the person.
  • Define a new term – “limited-content message” – related to debt collection communications. This definition would identify what information a debt collector must and may include in a message left for consumers (with the inclusion of no other information permitted) for the message to be deemed not to be a communication under the FDCPA. This definition would permit a debt collector to leave a message for a consumer without communicating, as defined by the FDCPA, with a person other than the consumer.
  • Require a disclosure to consumers from debt collectors that contains certain information about the debt and “related consumer protections.” The bureau said the information could include an itemization of the debt; how a consumer may respond to a collection attempt (in “plain-language information”), including a dispute of the debt; and inclusion of a “tear-off” consumers could use to respond to the collection attempt.
  • Clarify how debt collectors may lawfully use “newer communication technologies” such as voicemail, email and text messages. The bureau indicated the clarification would protect consumers by allowing them to unsubscribe from future communications from collectors through those media. “The proposed rule would also clarify how collectors may provide required disclosures electronically,” the agency said. “In addition, if consumers want to limit ways debt collectors contact them, for example at a specific telephone number, while they are at work, or during certain hours, the rule clarifies how consumers may easily do so.”
  • Set prohibitions on a debt collector from suing or threats of lawsuits if the collector knows or should know that statute of limitations has passed. “The proposed rule also would prohibit a debt collector from furnishing information about a debt to a consumer reporting agency unless the debt collector has communicated about the debt to the consumer, such as by sending the consumer a letter,” the bureau said.

Debt Collection Practices (Regulation F)