The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposed a new set of rules on Tuesday that would change how debt collectors can pester debtors. The good news for the money-owers out there is the rules would restrict how often collection agencies can call you. The bad news is the agencies would be able to send unlimited texts or emails to consumers.
The new rules were presented as amendments to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which was passed in 1977, long before cell phones and emails were commonplace. The proposed regulations would prevent debt collectors from calling their targets more than seven times in a week. And if a debtor answers one of those calls, the agency would have to wait a week to call back.
However, the proposed rules also “clarify” how debt collectors can use email and texts, placing no hard limits on the number of electronic messages they can send to debtors, a CFPB official told Bloomberg. But such messages would have to give debtors the option to opt out of receiving more messages.
As Fast Company points out, the rules would also allow collection agencies to contact debtors via social media so long as it was through a private channel that isn’t “viewable by a potentially wide array of the consumer’s social or professional colleagues.” So basically, they can slide into your DMs, but they can’t @ you.
According to the press CFPB release, these new rules are supposed to “provide consumers with clear protections against harassment by debt collectors,” and there are proposed rules that protect consumers from debt collector harassment. For instance, under the proposed rules, debt collectors can’t contact debtors through their work email, and debtors can request collection agencies don’t contact particular social media accounts, email addresses, or phone numbers. The regulations would also prevent collection agencies from alerting credit agencies about debts without also informing the debtors they are doing so.
The amendment does provide some clarity and protection for consumers, but it also reads as a 538-page guide for all the ways that collection agencies could legally harass debtors in the modern age.