We’ve talked about the FDCPA before. This is the federal law that protects consumers from being harassed by debt collectors. As we’ve mentioned before, the law applies only to consumer debt, not businesses. The law also only applies to outside debt collectors, not companies who are owed the money for product or services they provided.
In October of last year, the government updated the language on the FDCPA. The new rules officially take effect in October 2021. You can read all of the updated language, and the explanation for what did and did not change here. But be warned, it’s 653 pages. So instead, let us give you the 6 things most likely to be relevant to you.
1. Debt collectors can call you more often
With the new rules, collection agencies can contact consumers more frequently. They can place up to seven debt-collection phone calls per week (and under some circumstances even more), as well as send an unlimited number of text and email messages and private social media posts.
2. Unsubscribe is an option
Although they can now contact you more often, if communicating electronically, debt collectors must now provide an “unsubscribe” option in emails or text messages. The details of this have not been worked out.
3. Social media rules
On social media sites, like Facebook or Twitter, debt collectors can only contact consumers via DM or private message. A debt collector cannot post on your Facebook page, or @you in a tweet or Instagram post. If they do, you should screenshot the post, block them, and consider contacting a lawyer.
4. Email rules
A debt collector cannot communicate or attempt to communicate with a consumer in a way that the consumer has requested the debt collector not use. For example, a specific telephone number or email address. Unless an exception applies, the a debt collector also can’t contact a consumer using an email address that the debt collector knows, or should know, is a work email. For example, if a debt collector knows that the consumer works at Example Company and the email address is examplecompany.com or excomp.com, the debt collector knows, or should know, the email address is provided by the consumer’s employer, and so can’t use it.
5. Communication before reporting
Debt collectors cannot report collection items to consumer reporting agencies unless the debt collector has already communicated with the consumer, by, for example, sending a letter to the consumer.
6. Debt transfers limited
Unless an exception applies, debt collectors can’t transfer a debt to another collection agency if the debt collector knows, or should know, that the consumer settled the debt; the consumer discharged the debt in bankruptcy; or the consumer filed an identity theft report. Keep in mind, the FDCPA gives you the right to ask any collection agency to provide you with a detailed account of how the total debt amount was calculated and the name of the original creditor.
You may still find the original law and the new regulation complicated and lengthy. The most important things to remember remain:
- Write everything down and verify that you owe the money.
- Remember, you have the right to hang up the phone if the collector is abusive.
- Do not agree to, or make, any payment plan until you are sure that you owe the money and the debt is not over the statute of limitations.
- Don’t hide if it is a legitimate debt. Facing the problem and working it out within your financial constraints is likely the lowest cost option.
- Call a lawyer if necessary if the collector is violating the law.
You can read more tips for dealing with collection agents here.