In what is supposed to be an increase in protections offered to consumers, an updated version of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was passed in the fall of 2020 that brings that iconic piece of legislation up to date with modern forms of communication.
However, as you will see shortly, there are quite a few ways that the updated legislation either doesn’t go far enough to ensure protection against predatory collection agents or simply doesn’t include all of the forms of communication available today.
Defining Types of Communication
The original version of the FDCPA is notoriously exclusive to contact by phone, which left all of the other forms of communication available to collection agents in 2021 open to interpretation. This has long been a point of confusion among consumers and agents alike.
Starting in the fall of 2021, the types of communication covered by the FDCPA will be expanded to include email, text messages, and social media messages. Just as is already the case with phone calls, consumers will have the right to opt out of contact by any of these means by simply telling a collector to stop that specific form of communication.
Of course, critics of the new update will quickly point out that there is nothing in place to prevent initial contact from collectors on any of the covered communication platforms.
Defining Frequency Harassment
Another area that the update addresses is a specific definition for the frequency of phone calls that will be considered harassment. That number is going to be set at no more than seven calls per week, and no calls within seven days of actually speaking with a consumer.
Once again, critics of the new policy will be quick to point out that anyone with multiple accounts in collections will still be forced to endure a constant stream of phone calls from agents attempting to collect on those accounts.
The Type of Creditor Still Matters
One change that isn’t included in the update is any type of protection from original creditors. Just like the original FDCPA, the updated version will only apply to third-party debt collectors, so anyone who is an original creditor will still be free to pursue collections outside of these new requirements.
Remember the Original FDCPA Rights
It is also worth pointing out that all of the original protections that exist because of the FDCPA are going to remain in place.
This means that collection agents will still be forbidden from making any type of threats against consumers, and those creditors must provide consumers with a debt validation letter upon request.
It is certainly a nice gesture that this new update provides some clarity regarding emails, text messages, and social media. It also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the update isn’t adding a whole lot of additional protections for consumers.
So, with all of that in mind, the best way for any consumer to handle a debt collector is to be open and honest while also understanding that they do have some protections under the law. And anyone attempting to collect a debt is always going to be better served to treat the person they are attempting to contact with dignity and respect.