Debt collection is one of the most complained about financial services industries, according to the number of complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Scammers also frequently capitalize on the fear of debt collectors. Check out this story from WCPO last week about a debt collection scammer impersonating the sheriff’s office, leaving messages threatening to serve a warrant for uncollected debt.
Now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is proposing updates to the forty-year-old Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which regulates debt collectors in an effort to prevent them from “harassing, oppressing or abusing” debtors.
The current rules, adopted well before cell phones, email and texting, are unclear about using modern communications methods to try to collect debt. Under the proposed new rules, debt collectors would be somewhat limited in the number of calls per account per week to debtors. But they would be freed to use email and text to send payment reminders, as long as an unsubscribe option is provided.
A comment period is open for the proposed updates before they are set to be approved, and consumer advocates and the financial industry are weighing in about whether the proposal would help or harm consumers.
Consumer advocates worry that debt collectors would increase their calling and messaging to consumers, but industry experts argue that offering more options of ways to be contacted gives consumers more choice.
Some questions for consumer reporters to explore:
- How might the proposed regulations change debt collection scams?
- Based on the current rules, what should consumers be looking out for?
- What do consumers in your area think about the proposals?