Good News for Consumers–the CFPB’s Proposed New Rules for Debt Collectors

There is good news for the 70 million U.S. consumers who are behind in their bills and being pursued by a debt collector. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has proposed new rules that apply to the debt collectors that collect bills for other creditors. The current rules are outdated and inadequate. For example, when existing law was enacted, there was no voicemail, email or text messages. Back when the debt protection laws were written, debt collectors were sending consumers postcards, collect calls and telegrams!

Here are the main new rules:

  • Debt collectors would have to tell consumers they could no longer be sued on the “stale” debt because the statute of limitations has run.
  • Debt collectors could not revive a stale debt if a consumer made a payment. Now, in some states, a payment revives a debt.
  • Debt collectors would have to inform consumers their rights under the law.
  • Debt collectors will have to make it easy for consumers to ask for more information on the debt.
  • Debt collectors could not call the consumer more than six times a week if the collector is making the first contact with the consumer.
  • Debt collectors would have to have sufficient information on consumer to start collection—full name, address, phone number, an account number, and amount owed. At present, all some debt collectors have is a name and address and an amount owed.
  • Consumers would have the right to prohibit debt collectors from calling them at a particular place, like their workplace, or on their cell phone.
  • If the consumer disputes the debt, the debt collector would have to go back and check its documentation and confirm they are dunning the right person for the right amount before pursuing collection.
  • Debt collectors could not sell debt to another debt collector if a consumer’s debt is not resolved.
  • If the consumer tells the collector the debt is not a valid debt, the debt collector would have to stop collections until it confirms the person really owes the debt.
  • Debt collectors that buy a portfolio of debt that gives rise to a large number of consumer disputes and other ref flags would be required to have good documentation on the debt before filing a lawsuit to collect on the debt.

For more information on the new rules, go to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website, http://www.consumerfinance.gov/.

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