The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently announced a proposal to amend Regulation F, the federal rule that implements the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The proposal would provide debtors with protections against harassment by debt collectors and options to address or dispute debts. It would limit the number of calls debt collectors could place to reach debtors and clarifies how collectors may communicate lawfully using technologies that have emerged since the 1977 passage of the FDCPA, such as voicemails, emails, and text messages.
“The Bureau is taking the next step in the rulemaking process to ensure we have clear rules of the road where debtors know their rights and debt collectors know their limitations.”
Kathleen L. Kraninger | CFPB Director
Key highlights of the proposed amendments include:
Call restrictions. The proposal would restrict how often debt collectors can call debtors. Only seven attempts per week to reach a debtor by telephone about a specific debt are authorized by the proposed rule, and if contact is made, the debt collector will be required to wait at least one week before calling the debtor again.
Mandatory disclosures. The measure would require debt collectors to send debtors an itemization of the debt and plain-language information about how the debtor may respond to a collection attempt, including information about disputing the debt. The disclosure would need to include a “tear-off” sheet that the debtor could send back to the debt collector to respond to the collection attempt.
Texts messages and emails. The proposed rule would clarify how debt collectors can communicate with debtors using voicemails, emails, and text messages, including how to provide required disclosures electronically. The rule would allow debtors to unsubscribe to future electronic communications. Debtors also could limit debt collector contact to a specific telephone number, while they are at work, or during certain hours.
Time-barred debts. The proposed rule would prohibit debt collectors from threatening to sue a debtor to collect a debt that is time-barred. In addition, a debt collector would be prohibited from reporting an unpaid debt to a credit reporting agency unless the collector first contacts the debtor about the debt.
The authority to issue substantive rules to implement and interpret the FDCPA was delegated to the CFPB by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
The proposed rule can be found at: https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/cfpb_debt-collection-NPRM.pdf. The CFPB will accept public comments on the proposal through August 19, 2019.