Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which protects consumers from abusive and deceptive practices, “communication” is defined as “the conveying of information regarding a debt directly or indirectly to any person through any medium.”
Therefore, when your contact center is communicating with consumers, attorneys, or debt settlement companies to collect a debt through any channel, be it telephone or e-mail, it is vital that your collection agents are well-trained with the latest FDCPA compliance information and are familiar with non-compliance risks.
The following is a handy list of five FDCPA facts relating to communication:
1. Attorney Communications and the FDCPA
To make sure their rights are properly observed, consumers always have the option of retaining an attorney to represent them during all interactions with debt collectors. A consumer who has an attorney is no longer considered vulnerable because it is assumed the attorney is protecting the consumer and making sure the consumer’s rights are not violated. When debt collectors retain an attorney (or the debt collector is an attorney), or when a consumer retains an attorney, attorney communication issues arise under the FDCPA. Two predominant issues include legal process served on the consumer and communication between the debt collector and the consumer’s attorney.
2. Cease Communication Requests
Under § 805 of the FDCPA, consumers may send a debt collector a written notice to cease communications in connection with the collection of a debt, or the consumer may send a written notice that he or she refuses to pay a debt. In both cases, the debt collector may not communicate further with the consumer with respect to the debt in question, other than to: a) advise the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated; b) notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or c) where applicable, notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.
3. Communicating with Consumers via E-mail
The benefits of attempting to collect unpaid accounts by using e-mail are indisputable. The money saved on letter printing costs and postage would be tremendous. Additionally, the speed of electronic communication obviously surpasses that of the traditional “snail mail.” Even though the use of e-mail for purposes of collecting a debt is not specifically addressed under the FDCPA, many debt collectors have opted to use this particular method of communication due to probable benefits. However, a debt collector should be aware of any possible pitfalls before including the use of e-mail in a collections operation’s day-to-day practices.
4. Communicating with Debt Settlement Companies
Debt settlement companies are known by numerous names, including credit repair organizations, debt consolidation companies, debt negotiators and debt counseling organizations. Often times, these companies send letters on behalf of the consumer stating the consumer has given them power of attorney over the consumer’s debt. Prior to responding to such letters, a collector must examine the FDCPA and state law to determine if communications with such parties are permissible. The FDCPA does not specifically address communications with debt settlement companies; however, the FDCPA does address communications with third parties. Which brings us to the last fact.
5. Third-Party Communications
In order to protect a consumer’s privacy, the FDCPA restricts the parties with whom debt collectors may communicate regarding a consumer’s debt. Generally, debt collectors are prohibited from communicating with a third party about a consumer’s debt, with a narrow group of exceptions. For the most part, collectors may not communicate with employers, neighbors, friends and even family (other than the consumer’s spouse or parents under certain circumstances) regarding a consumer’s debt. However, the FDCPA does provide some exceptions to its restriction on communication with third parties. Debt collectors must understand the difference between permissible and impermissible communications with third parties.
Source: ACA International
At Call Center Services International (CCSI), we understand your compliance responsibilities. Our knowledge of the industry allows us to recruit and train call center agents that will integrate to your debt collection operation and meet compliance. Read more about our debt collection solution here.