The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently issued new regulations intended to help clarify and modernize the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. These new rules are intended to help consumers by making it easier for them to assert their rights against debt collectors. Through the next few blog posts, these rules will be described and tell you how to use them to protect yourself.
One significant change is that the law now makes a distinction between a communication and an "attempt" to communicate. The FDCPA governs "communications" but did not specifically state whether calls that were placed without leaving messages (for example) constituted a communication. The new rule calls such things "attempts to communicate." Under the new regulation, an "attempt to communicate" occurs when a debt collector initiates a communication expecting to get a reply, but does not get in touch with the consumer. It expressly includes (but is not necessarily limited to) messages left on voicemail or answering machines.
This provides greater protection to debtors, since now it is clear that debt collectors might violate the law even if the debtor does not answer the phone. Debt collectors are now prohibited from even attempting to communicate with debtors at inconvenient times or in inconvenient places, or at their work if the debt collector knows that the employer does not allow such communications, or if they know the consumer is represented by a lawyer.
The new rule also prohibits debt collectors from getting a consumer to consent to such calls if that consent occurs during an illegal contact.
What you can do to protect yourself: If you are being contacted by a debt collector, make sure the debt collector is aware of times and places that you do not want to be contacted at (such as times when your children are napping, or when you are with friends or relatives.) If your employer prohibits debt collection or personal phone calls, tell the collector that. If your employer has no policy regarding those calls, you can still tell the debt collector that you do not want to receive calls while at work or on your work phone. Keep track of all calls you receive, including those that don't leave messages. (An easy way to do this is to screenshot the call log and save that photo in your phone's camera gallery.)
If you would like more information about these rules, or want help dealing with a debt collector, contact Lawton Cates for a free consultation with our consumer protection lawyers at our Madison Wisconsin law firm.