Collection agencies can now contact people via online platforms

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Starting Tuesday, collection agencies will be able to contact consumers through social media when they request repayment of unpaid debts.

ARIZONA, U.S. – Starting Tuesday, debt collection agencies will be able to contact consumers through social media to request repayment of unpaid debts.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has updated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for the digital age, adding two new rules that clarify how debt collection companies communicate with consumers via email, SMS, or social media. The revision makes it clear what they can and cannot say when contacting them.

“We’re finally leaving 1977 behind and developing a debt collection system that works for consumers and industries in the modern world,” said Kathleen L. Kraninger, the former CFPB director who oversaw the rule changes. in a blog post.

What the rule means for consumers

Collection agencies can still call when they inquire about borrowed money, but the new rule limits collection agencies to calling consumers seven times a week per account to collect money.

If you are on the phone with a debt collection agency, they are prohibited from calling you again about that particular debt within seven days of your conversation.

The biggest change is that collection agencies will be able to send emails and text messages and reach out to consumers directly on social media to request repayment of the money owed.

But they have some limitations:

  • Debt collection agencies must identify themselves when they report; can send you a friend or follow a request
  • In each message you must provide an easy way to opt out of being contacted online; There is no limit to the number of messages you can send
  • Any form of communication must be private; can’t post or comment on your page if it can be seen by your friends or followers.

The new rule prohibits debt collection agencies from suing or threatening consumers over statute-barred debts; a debt that goes beyond the limit.

Collection agencies must either speak to the borrower in person or by telephone or wait at least 14 days after sending a letter or email including a social media message before reporting a payment default.

Proponents worry about change that will get consumers into trouble

The new rules worry consumer advocates like April Kuehnhoff, who said the changes bring “all kinds of privacy concerns” and fraud.

“I already got my first fraudulent debt collection email, so they started before the new regulation went into effect,” said Keuhnhoff, an employee at the National Consumer Law Center.

While people may choose not to be contacted by debt collection agencies, Keuhnhoff said it would have been a better approach to give consumers the option to opt in to electronic messaging.

“You can tell them that you don’t want them to contact you,” said Ed Mierzwinski, the director of the Arizona federal consumer program, PIRG. “If they really want to contact you, they’ll send you a letter.”

The new changes could cause trouble for people who don’t check their email or social media messages regularly, Mierzwinski said.

Keuhnhoff also feared that debt collection agencies could misidentify a person and send information to the wrong borrower, thereby putting personal and private information at risk.

“Complain to the CFBP and the Attorney General if you have complaints about debt collection agencies,” Mierzwinski said.

If you are having trouble with a debt collection agency, you can file a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372). You can also report any issues to your state’s attorney general. You may also be able to sue a debt collection agent in a state or federal court.

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