There’s good news and bad news about debt collection. The bad news: a new debt collection rule permits unlimited electronic access to contacting consumers.
But the good news: the rule may eliminate “debt parking” by forcing debt collectors to reach consumers before posting debts on their credit reports.
Consumer Action notes that due to the extensive loss of jobs, particularly in the lower-income and minority populations, many people have found themselves in dire financial straits, and are faced with overdue rent and bills in arrears. These factors create an environment ripe for debt collectors. The federal government has passed a new rule that, according to Consumer Action, will subject those who owe money to a potential flood of texts and emails from debt collectors. The rule goes into effect at the end of 2021.
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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule will allow debt collectors to text, email, and even contact people through their social media accounts via direct message beginning in November 2021. The CFPB placed no limit on the number of times a debt collector can try to contact consumers by using these means.
“The last thing consumers who are having trouble paying their bills need is to be besieged by debt collectors with a green light to hound them by text, email and social media,” said Consumer Action’s director of national priorities, Linda Sherry. “We hope that a reinvigorated CFPB—with consumer-focused leadership—will revisit some of the excesses extended to industry.”
Consumer Action had urged the Bureau to require collectors to get individuals’ consent before sending them texts and emails about debts they presumably owe. Instead, consumers are given the option to opt out of being contacted by text, email or social media after receiving these messages from debt collectors.
The new rule limits phone calls to seven attempts, or one actual conversation, per week per debt. The rule also covers how consumers must be notified of assumed debts via the validation notice. The mandatory notice must clearly state how much is owed and how consumers can dispute the debts.
The ruling does reiterate that collectors cannot sue, or even threaten to sue, over “time-barred” debt, on which the statute of limitations has already expired. The rule also forbids collectors from “parking” debts on consumers’ credit reports before they have contacted people about the debt. Collectors must not notify credit bureaus about a debt in collections for at least 14 days after sending notification to the consumer, to see if the mandatory notice was undeliverable. It is important for consumers to try to keep anything negative from being reported to a credit agency.
If you want to learn more, Consumer Action dissects the new two-part rule in a recent issue of Consumer Action News: see Key changes. These rules update implementation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act . Consumer Action also provides information on how to demand information about a debt in collections, how to stop a debt collector from contacting you, and how to avoid reviving “zombie” debts. (See Tips and tools.)
Jeanette Pavini is an Emmy Award winning journalist specializing in consumer news and protection. She is the author of “The Joy of $aving: Money Lessons I Learned From My Italian-American Father & 20 Years as a Consumer Reporter.” Jeanette is a regular contributor to TheStreet. Her work includes reporting for CBS, MarketWatch, WSJ Sunday, and USA Today. Jeanette has contributed to “The Today Show” and a variety of other media outlets. You can follow her moneysaving tips on Facebook: Jeanette Pavini: The Joy of $aving Community. Find links to her social media and her book at, JeanettePavini.com.