Debt collectors can now send text messages, emails and direct messages to borrowers on social media after new rules approved by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) went into effect on Tuesday.
The new rules clarify how debt collectors can use email, text messaging, social media and other modern methods to communicate with consumers. It also allows borrowers to limit the debt collectors’ ability to contact them through such communication methods.
While debt collectors can contact borrowers through a variety of communication methods, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act 1977 prohibits debt collection harassment, abuse, and unfairness, as well as false and misleading claims by debt collectors.
The new rules require debt collectors who contact borrowers on social media to identify themselves as such and give consumers the option to opt out of contacting them online.
This option should be “a reasonable and simple method to opt out of such communications to a specific email address or telephone number.”
Any messages they send must be made so confidential, which means they cannot post to the borrower’s public page, however debt collectors can submit a friend request or follow a consumer if they provide identifying information.
A collector is presumed to be in breach of federal law if he “makes phone calls to a specific person in connection with collecting a specific debt more than seven times within seven consecutive days or within seven consecutive days of a telephone conversation about the debt. , “According to the new rules.
Debt collectors are also prohibited from using or threatening to sue consumers for expired debt, and are required to take “concrete steps” to disclose debt to consumers before reporting debt information to a consumer reporting agency. …
In particular, debt collectors must speak with a consumer in person or wait at least 14 days after sending a letter or virtual message before reporting it to a rating agency.
If a consumer believes that a picker is in violation of the rules, he can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
However, the CFPB rules do not explicitly state how often a debt collector can contact a consumer via text messages, email, or private messages.
“The rule is the result of a careful, deliberate process that has been going on for more than seven years and reflects interactions with consumer advocates, debt collectors and other stakeholders,” the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection said in a statement.
The CFPB proposed extending the planned start date of the new rules to January 29, 2022, but later determined that the extension was “unnecessary” and set the scheduled start date to November 30, 2021.
The CFPB assessed the move as a welcome change from the outdated methods currently used by debt collectors to communicate with consumers.
“With the tremendous changes in communications since the FDCPA was adopted more than four decades ago, it is important to have clear rules of conduct,” said CFPB Director Kathleen Kroeninger. “Our debt collection rulemaking limits the number of debt collectors and provides clear rights for consumers. With this modernized debt collection rule, consumers will have greater control over their dealings with debt collectors. ”
However, some critics have expressed concern that the new rules will negatively affect consumers who do not have access to the mainstream Internet or do not regularly check social media, as a result of which they will miss messages from debt collectors.
April Kreninger, a staff attorney for the National Consumer Advocacy Center, told NPR that the new rules are “really disappointing and worrying in many ways.”
Kreininger said the new rules could also lead to an increase in criminals using new communication methods and trying to illegally contact consumers, posing as legitimate debt collectors.
“In fact, I already received my first spam-related debt collection email before the new rules went into effect,” she said. “So, of course, we should expect more bad players to try to trick people into paying them money on their alleged debts.”