In November the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued the Final Rule for Regulation F for the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Regulation F helps modernize the FDCPA with new regulations since its initial enactment in 1977.
Previously the FDCPA did not cover modern forms of communication, such as email, voice mail, text, and social media. Regulation F added new rules to allow debt collectors to use these communication channels when collecting on debt. It also gives the consumer control over which channels are used to contact them.
While debt collectors can use new tools to reach a consumer there are guidelines that must be followed per the FDCPA as clarified through Regulation F. These guidelines are per debt and not per consumer.
Debt Collectors cannot call a consumer during inconvenient times, such as before 8 am and after 9 pm consumer time – unless the consumer has asked the debt collector to contact them outside these hours. There cannot be more than seven call attempts within seven days and if contact is made with the consumer they cannot be contacted again for seven more days unless requested by the consumer. Any phone call made with the intent to harass, oppress or abuse a consumer goes against the FDCPA.
Debt Collectors can leave a ‘limited-content message’ for a consumer. These messages must include (1) The business name as long as it doesn’t state that it is from a debt collector, (2) Request for the consumer to respond, (3) Contact names, (4) Contact numbers. The message can also include a salutation, date and time of the call, suggested dates and times to follow up, and a statement that the consumer can speak to any company representative about the call. No additional information can be provided when leaving a limited-content message.
As long as the Debt Collector can ensure that they are reaching the correct consumer text, email and social media may be used as a means of communication. The ‘Limited Content Guidelines’ must be followed when communicating digitally. When it comes to obtaining the email or phone number there are additional guidelines that are to be followed; if the consumer has previously contacted the debt collector with the email, if the debt collector communicated with the consumer at the email or if the email was used for other debt collection use.
Text messages have different guidelines. Debt collectors can only communicate with the consumers via text if the consumer had previously communicated with the debt collector over text or if the consumer has opted in.
If a consumer is contacted via social media the debt collector must ensure that the communication is in direct messages and not viewable to the public. All digital communication must have a clear and simple way for the consumer to opt-out.
These Regulations will take effect on November 30th, 2021 – One year after these changes were officially announced.