CHN: Proposed Rule Would Favor Abusive Debt Collectors over Consumers
Aug. 19 is the deadline for commenting on a proposed rule that would do more to protect the interests of abusive debt collectors than protect consumers. Advocates believe the proposed rule weakens the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by undermining its goals of stopping harassment, protecting consumer privacy, and preventing collection against the wrong person or in the wrong amount.
The rule, proposed by the Trump Administration’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), would allow debt collectors to:
- Call consumers seven times per week, per debt. A consumer with eight medical debts could hear the phone ringing up to 56 times a week.
- Contact consumers by text, email, or direct message without their permission and send important information through hyperlinks. In addition to the obvious harassment, this raises huge cyber security concerns.
- Sue consumers without the debt collector’s attorneys reviewing original account documents to make sure the consumer is the right person and the debt is the right amount.
- Collect debt that is so old that the deadline for a lawsuit has passed and records of who owes the debt and for how much may be lost.
For more information about the proposed rule, and what can be done to improve it, see this issue brief published by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC). NCLC also set up a portal for submitting public comments to the CFPB about the rule and a tool for collecting personal stories from individuals who have encountered abusive debt collectors.
In 2017, 71 million Americans – nearly one in three adults with a credit report – had a debt in collection reported on their credit reports. Nationally, the percentage of people with debt in collection reaches 45 percent for residents of predominantly non-white zip codes. Abuses by debt collectors are consistently among the top consumer complaints to the CFPB.