From Collector: Bearing Fruit

ACA International’s TCPA reform efforts are successfully garnering support from influencers and leaders in Washington, D.C.

It’s no secret to members of the accounts receivable management industry—as well as their clients and the many consumers they’ve helped—that they provide an important service to their communities and are vital in ensuring a functioning economy.

However, it’s always nice when someone else says it too, particularly when it’s your elected official or regulator.

Over the past few months, we have seen many legislators and regulators appear to understand concerns about Telephone Consumer Protection Act compliance and offer their support of reform efforts, Leah Dempsey, ACA International’s vice president and senior counsel of federal advocacy reports in Collector magazine.

Thanks to ACA International members’ continuous advocacy efforts at the Federal Communications Commission concerning onerous TCPA requirements and other critical issues, in recent months we’ve enjoyed a culmination of support from those in Washington we have been educating about this issue for many years.

For example, the U.S. Department of Treasury has had some pretty good things to say about the work ACA members are doing, and a number of other regulators and members of Congress have expressed the need for clear rules for the accounts receivable management industry and others to operate under, Dempsey reports.

Following is an excerpt from Dempsey’s article about the Treasury and Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Read the complete report in the November issue of Collector magazine for updates on the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, congressional support for TCPA reform and more.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury

In a report released last summer, the Treasury acknowledged that “[d]ebt collectors and debt buyers are important market participants for the continued functioning of the consumer credit markets and other industries that rely on the recoveries from debt collection or the sale of delinquent debt to minimize losses.”

It further added: “By reducing losses from unpaid balances, debt collectors and debt buyers increase efficiency in the consumer credit markets through the reduced cost of credit, which can yield greater access to credit.”

This report was prepared in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order directing agencies to identify laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and record-keeping requirements, and other government policies that promote or inhibit federal regulation of the U.S. financial system. In addition to outlining some of the economic benefits the debt collection industry provides, the Treasury report specifically identified the TCPA as one of those regulations that inhibits the financial services marketplace.

The Treasury stated, “Current implementation of the TCPA constrains the ability of financial services firms to use digital communication channels to communicate with their customers despite consumers’ increasing reliance on text messaging and e-mail communications through their mobile devices.”

ACA met with Treasury officials in September to discuss the report and provide additional input on how the TCPA and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act should be interpreted in ways that do not harm the much-needed ability to communicate with consumers about important financial information.

The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection

In a June letter to the FCC in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking views on the interpretation and implementation of the TCPA, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection also made some important points about the need to be able to communicate with consumers.

In its letter, the BCFP stated, “Consumers benefit from communications with consumer financial products providers in many contexts, including receiving offers of goods and services and notifications about their accounts. Recent years have seen rapid increases in the use of smart phones, text messages, email, social media, and other new or newer methods of communication.

With the advent and deployment of these communication technologies, it is important to review how statutes and regulations apply to them.”

The letter also adds: “the Bureau supports the FCC’s effort in this rulemaking to seek comment on how to define ATDS under the TCPA and other issues that may affect whether and how collectors, servicers, and other consumer financial service providers communicate with consumers.

The bureau believes that, by soliciting and reviewing comments from those who are involved in this space, the FCC will gain important information.”

During the prior administration, the bureau had not officially weighed in on the 2015 TCPA Omnibus Ruling, despite some conflicts it presented with BCFP rules, which have required financial service providers to contact consumers in a timely manner. For example, the BCFP’s Early Intervention Rule mandates that financial institutions must establish live contact or make a good-faith effort to establish live contact with consumers within 36 days later a mortgage loan becomes delinquent.  The bureau has also in the past urged financial institutions to use mobile technology such as text messaging to contact consumers.

ACA has highlighted these conflicts to the bureau, and we were appreciative that the bureau is now weighing in on this important topic and referencing the need for open and timely communication with consumers. The bureau also noted in its letter that the accounts receivable management industry is subject to the FDCPA and will have new federal rules in this area, a point lost on some industry opponents who have argued that the TCPA should be the primary law regulating debt collectors.

Article Courtesy of ACA International