The Trump administration recently announced a new policy change that would allow debt collectors to message consumers about collections via email and text messages. This announcement made headlines around the country, but most of the articles covering the topic tended to be slanted in one way or another.
Just like there are two sides to every story, there are pros and cons that come with the proposed changes to the current debt collection laws. And while there is definitely some cause for concern, it could also be considered a step forward to finally have some clear language on previously-gray areas like email and text messages.
In order to help understand the concerns on both sides of the issue, let’s take a quick look through seven different pros and cons concerning debt collection by email and text messages.
PRO: The FDCPA is Long Overdue for an Update
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act has been the law of the land in the commercial debt collection world ever since it was adopted in 1977. However, there have been a few changes to the way we live our lives in the more than 40 years that have passed since it was signed into law.
The original FDCPA doesn’t address things like email or text messages because they weren’t available at the time.
CON: More Opportunity for Abuse
On the negative side, the obvious argument against allowing debt collectors to contact consumers electronically is that it is opening the door for new layers of abusive collection practices.
The commercial debt collection industry already generates a ridiculous amount of consumer complaints with the laws as they are currently written. Permitting any additional forms of communication will only work to increase those complaints.
PRO: More Tools in the Arsenal
Based on the fact that most millennials actually prefer electronic forms of communication to phone calls, permitting debt collectors to email or text them might be something that younger consumers actually like.
By giving commercial debt collectors these additional tools in their arsenal, we might see reputable collectors utilize them to better communicate with consumers and close cases faster.
CON: Limits Could be Excessive
One article covering this story reported that the limit placed on the number of text messages a debt collector was legally allowed to send could be as high as ten messages per day.
When you think about the prospect of receiving 50-70 texts about an outstanding bill over the course of a week, it’s not difficult to see why so many people are arguing against permitting this type of collection practice.
PRO – Consumers Could Opt Out
On the other hand, there is also wording that suggests consumers will be able to opt out of any forms of communication that they are not comfortable with.
If this ends up being true, then quickly opting out will allow anyone who doesn’t want to be contacted by email or text message to simply state that and move on.
CON – Could Impact Other Limits
Another popular argument against making these updates to the FDCPA is that we could be opening the flood gates for additional “updates” down the road based on lobbyists in Washington.
Once we cross the line of amending the FDCPA to include emails and text messages, it might only be a matter of time before we find ourselves increasing the times and frequency that a debt collector can contact a consumer by phone as well. This is a very slippery slope.
While it is easy to see why both sides of this debate are pushing for their arguments, a clear and obvious solution that is best for everyone is not apparent. Depending on how these new policies shake out, we could be looking at a very different debt collection landscape in the years to come.