For decades, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) has been the consumer’s best defense against aggressive and illegal tactics by debt collectors. The legislation identifies exactly what behaviors are and are not permitted when a company pursues a debt. Until recently, the FDCPA remained unchanged since its inception in 1977. In 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enacted two “Final Rules”, marking the first update to the 44 year old legislation.
The Debt Collection Final Rules
A July 2021 CFPB press release announced that two “Final Rules” under the FDCPA would take effect before the end of the year. Former CFPB director Kathleen Kraninger, who oversaw the changes during the Trump administration, celebrated the changes as long overdue.
But consumer protection agencies are wary of the new allowances granted to collectors, and some take issue with the way things were defined under the law. Generally speaking, the FDCPA prohibits collectors from the following activities:
- Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Attempting to collect debts from the wrong person
- Threatening legal action against the borrower
- Misrepresenting the status or amount of a debt
- Repeatedly contacting a third party to get your whereabouts
- Continue seeking payment after receiving a cease communication notice
The changes applied this year don’t fundamentally change these principles, but it does establish clearer definitions of the terms used. For example, a debt collector is still liable to stay within time restrictions, but the Final Rule gives leeway if the caller does not know or does not have information about a customer’s time zone. In fact, a caller is not even required at any point to determine where the customer is located to adjust their calling hours.
Perhaps the most controversial development brought forth by the Final Rule allows debt collectors to contact consumers through social media. The collector does not need explicit permission to send a private message, and there is no limit to the number of messages they can send. Conversely, phone calls are limited to 7 times within a 7 day period.
Consumer protection advocates urge the public to familiarize themselves with the few restrictions that remain. Just because they are reaching out in new ways, a collector contacting a customer must always:
- Identify themselves as debt collectors
- Give you the option to opt out of contact online
- Maintain private conversations with debtors
Unfortunately, these new rules have the potential to create many more ways debt collectors can harass consumers. For more information on the updates to the FDCPA, please see the statement released by the CFPB. You can also find a more detailed description of the new rules here.
Representation for FDCPA Violations
Our firm will continue to follow any updates in consumer legislation. If you believe that your rights have been violated before or after these changes, please contact our experienced attorneys today. Our results speak for themselves, and our clients are our number one priority. Reach us by phone at (919) 526-0450 or send us an email through our contact page.