Legal Analysts

Monday, November 02, 2020

New Debt Collection Law Starting on OCT 30, 2021

There are new laws about debt collecting starting on October 30, 2021. 

Specifically, amendments to Regulation F (12 CFR Part 1006), which implements the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), were published on October 30, 2020 in the Federal Register and when these amendments become effective, on October 30, 2021, the entire debt collection industry in the United States will be forever changed.

These changes mainly concern updating the FDCPA with respect to its application to modern forms of communication via technology, inclusive of a safe harbor for communications via text or email. However, the final rule is 653 pages so it's far more extensive than that simplistic understanding and should be reviewed, at length, by any industry participant. 

To navigate the rule, it's recommended that you utilize the table of contents. The main sections of the amendment, which should be studied, are as follows:

  1. Communications in Connection with Debt Collection;
  2. Acquisition of Location Information;
  3. Harassing, Oppressive, or Abusive Conduct;
  4. False, Deceptive, or Misleading Representations;
  5. Unfair or Unconscionable Means;
  6. Other Prohibited Practices;
  7. Disputes and Requests for Original-Creditor Information;
  8. Sending Required Disclosures; and 
  9. Record Retention

As background, the FDCPA was enacted in 1977 because "[t]here [was] abundant evidence of the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices by many debt collectors" whereas these practices "contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy." According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau "[d]ebt collection is estimated to be a $12.7 billion-dollar industry employing nearly 123,000 people across approximately 7,800 collection agencies in the United States." 

Make no mistake, these regulations are particularly important because "[c]onsumers... file thousands of private actions each year against debt collectors who allegedly have violated the FDCPA." Available damages in these lawsuits include up to $1,000 plus attorneys' fees for individuals and up to $500,000 or 1% of the net worth of the debt collector for class actions (15 USC 1692k). As a result, debt collectors who are unfamiliar with these amended rules, when they become effective, are in for a world of hurt. 


By the way, there is going to be another rule on this topic in the nearterm and it will address the required disclosures when debt collectors are pursuing time-barred debts (A/K/A, outside the applicable statute of limitations for suit). Stay tuned.