Final debt collection communications rule issued

(Nov. 6, 2020) A final rule focusing on communications between consumers and debt collectors under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was released late last week by the CFPB, with that final rule scheduled to take effect one year following its publication in the Federal Register. (As of Thursday, the final rule had not yet been published.)

The bureau said the rule is intended to “restate and clarify” prohibitions on harassment and abuse, false or misleading representations, and unfair practices by debt collectors when collecting consumer debt.

Issued in May 2019 (and followed by a supplemental proposal this February), the proposal revised the bureau’s Regulation F, focusing on the timing and means of communications between consumers and debt collectors and clarifying how the protections of the FDCPA, enacted in 1977, apply to newer communication technologies, such as email and text messages.

Not included in the final rule is a safe harbor for debt collectors against claims that an attorney falsely represented the attorney’s involvement in the preparation of a litigation submission, the bureau said. “That provision was proposed to bring greater clarity to this issue but, after receiving questions and comments from many stakeholders concerning the proposal, the Bureau has decided not to finalize that provision,” the bureau said.

However, the final rule summary does note inclusion of a safe harbor for debt collectors from civil liability “for an unintentional third-party disclosure if the debt collector follows the procedures identified in the rule when communicating with a consumer by email or text message.”

Meanwhile, the bureau said it plans to issue a consumer disclosure-focused final rule in December to clarify the information that a debt collector must provide to a consumer at the outset of debt collection and to provide a model notice containing the information required by FDCPA section 809(a). It will also, the bureau said, address consumer protection concerns related to requirements prior to furnishing consumer reporting information and the collection of debt that is beyond the statute of limitations (i.e., time-barred debt, addressed in the above-noted supplemental proposal).

The final rule also contains provisions on disputes, and record retention, among other topics.

Final rule notice for Federal Register