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CFPB proposes new rules to define fair debt collection practices

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was only created in 2011, but it’s already making enormous strides. In fact, the agency is currently considering new rules meant to strengthen the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, for FDCPA. This federal law was passed in 1977 to protect debtors from unfair debt-collection activities but, amazingly, this is the first time a specific regulator has been in charge of its interpretation.

After receiving thousands of complaints about collection tactics consumers felt were unfair, abusive or deceptive, the CFPB determined that the definition of those terms needs to be better defined within the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. An analysis of those complaints revealed three primary areas of concern:

Accurate debt information: When debt information is transferred from creditors to collectors or debt buyers, full and complete information isn’t necessarily being passed on. To ensure the integrity of the debt collection system, these transfers need to include the correct information about who the debtor is and how much they owe, along with full documentation on the details of the debt, past payments, penalties and interest.

Fair communication tactics: As the CFPB noted, the options for contacting debtors in 1977 were quite limited, compared to today. Clearer rules are needed on contact methods, such as whether creditors should be allowed to debtors via social media. At the same time, the agency continues to receive complaints about collection activities that clearly violate the FDCPA, such as false threats of criminal prosecution for the debt. The agency needs to know how prevalent such tactics may be.

Consumer rights information: The agency is concerned that consumers aren’t receiving clear, accurate information about their rights, even though these rights must be disclosed during collections. Creditors and collectors may also not be providing enough concrete, accurate information about the debt itself to allow them to respond effectively to creditor calls.

Interestingly, a law professor and former policy fellow at the CFPB recently attended an industry summit and found the collection industry enthusiastic about proposals to ensure more specific, complete information is transferred when debts are sold or sent to collection agencies.

If you’re interested in what should constitute fair debt collection, you can submit a comment on the rule at either www.regulationroom.org or www.regulations.gov until Feb. 10. If you are being mistreated by a deceptive or abusive creditor, consider contacting a consumer law attorney for help.

Sources: 

  • Credit Slips, “Debt Collection Industry Poised for Changes,” Professor Dalié Jiménez, University of Connecticut School of Law, Jan. 26, 2014
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau press release, "CFPB Considers Debt Collection Rules," Nov. 6, 2013

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