The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) has
issued recommendations to the CFPB that would further regulate when and in what manner debt collectors
can contact consumers.
One recommendation is to prohibit debt collectors from calling cell phones
or sending text messages without the consumer actively opting in to receive
those calls or texts. The proposal includes hand-dialed calls. This goes
beyond the scope of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), even
with the FCC's recent rulemaking. Currently the TCPA only applies
to auto-dialed calls and calls made with a prerecorded voice.
The NCLC report suggests that the CFPB clarify the FDCPA's prohibition
on excessive phone calls. The proposed rule changes include limiting the
number of times per week that a collector can call a consumer. The NCLC
proposes a three call per week limit. If the debt collector speaks with
the consumer, no more calls could be made during that week. The three
call limit would include answered and unanswered calls, even ones where
no voicemail was left.
The best aspect of this proposed rule is that it clarifies a vague section
of the FDCPA, providing guidance to courts, which have been divided as
to what constitutes harassment. A bright-line rule would prevent situations
where debt collectors call multiple times a day on multiple days of the
week. Setting clear standards puts both consumers and debt collectors
on notice as to what constitutes harassment under §1692d of the FDCPA.
The NCLC also recommends that the CFPB require that debt collectors notify
consumers of their right to request that the collector stop communicating
with them. Although §1692c(c) allows consumers to request no further
contact (and requires collectors to comply with that request), the FDCPA
does not currently require debt collectors to tell consumers about this
right. Given that the FDCPA does require collectors to make certain disclosures
during the intial contact with a consumer, it's not a large expansion
to require that the debt collector also inform consumers of their other
rights under the Act.
The NCLC recommendations also address limiting contact via social media,
clarifying that all types of contact must be conducted witihn the permissible
window stated in the Act (8am to 9pm), and more strict limitations on
communications in the workplace. The full report is linked at the top
of this post.