Important Changes Coming to Collector Communications
Starting late November 2021, collection agencies will be able to contact consumers via email and text message, with no limit on the number of messages they can send.
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If you're one of millions of Americans with an account in collections, you may soon see changes in your interactions with debt collectors. For the first time since the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was passed in 1977, the industry has clearer guidance for using modern communication methods like emails and text messages.
These new guidelines, called “Regulation F,” will be enforced by the CFPB and will go into effect on November 30, 2021. Here's an overview of some changes you may see if you have an account with a collection agency.
Just as with the original FDCPA, third-party collection agencies can only call you when it's convenient for you. Generally, that's between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. your local time, unless you give another timeframe. They're not allowed to call you at work, and they have to stop calling you if you ask.
Under Regulation F, collectors can only attempt seven calls to you within a seven-day time period. If you happen to speak to an agent on one of those calls, they can't attempt to call you again for seven days unless you give permission for additional calls.
Emails and Text Messages
Collectors will have more options to communicate with you, but with some limits. In addition to calling and sending letters, collectors can also send emails and text messages.
Before they can email or text you, the collector has to get your consent. However, that consent doesn't necessarily have to be given directly to the collector. For instance, if you gave your original creditor permission to email you, the collection agency can email you at the same address as long as the creditor notifies you that your account is being sent to a collection agency who may contact you via email.
On the plus side, collectors are required to provide a relatively easy process for opting-out of electronic communications— each message must include information on how you can unsubscribe. Note that collectors are allowed to send you any legally required notices, even if you've opted out. They're also allowed to reply once to any communication you initiate through a channel you previously opted-out of.
You're still allowed to ask a collector to stop communicating with you and you can be specific about the ways you're ok with receiving information. For example, you can ask the collector to stop emailing you, but continue to allow text messages.
You can send a written “cease communication” letter to stop the collector from contacting you completely, but keeping at least one channel open may be worth considering. You'll be able to stay in the loop about your account and receive early warning of any actions that may be taken.
Another new change is that now you don't have to guess about whether you could be sued over a past due collection account. Collection agencies are required to let you know if a debt is no longer legally enforceable. Having this information allows you to make more informed decisions about how to handle the collection.
Before a collection agency can report a debt to the credit bureaus, they have to notify you about the account. The notice must provide instructions for disputing the debt or getting more information about the original creditor. This update prevents parked debts and unnecessary damage to your FICO® Score.
Asking for proof is important because it gives you a chance to make sure the debt is legitimate and you're not being scammed by a bogus collection agency.
Being familiar with the collection law where you live is also helpful. In some cases, state or local laws are stricter than the Federal laws, providing additional protection from abusive collection practices.