Reg. F: Looking Ahead to Reduce Compliance Risk Using Technology
- Written by Steel Rose
In attempting to modernize and keep up with how customers want to communicate, the new regulations address electronic communications. Debt collectors may use email and text messages, but the debt collector must maintain reasonable procedures with respect to emails and texts to avoid sending communication to unauthorized third parties. So, the debt collector must be mindful of how they obtained the email address and whether the consumer has consented to its use.
For instance, a debt collector may send email communications:
•If a consumer communicated to the debt collector using an email address and the consumer has not opted out of email communications or
•If the debt collector has received prior consent directly from the consumer to use the email address to communicate about the debt and that consent has not been withdrawn or
•If a creditor obtained the email address from the consumer or
•If the creditor used the email address to communicate with the consumer about the account and the consumer did not request the creditor to stop.
A debt collector may send text messages if:
• The consumer used that phone number to communicate with the debt collector about that debt via text message and has not since opted out of text communications and the debt collector has further reassurances such as:
•Within the past 60 days, the consumer sent a new text message to the debt collector from that number; or
•Within the past 60 days, the debt collector confirmed that phone number had not been reassigned from the consumer to someone else since the date of the consumer's most recent text.
• Alternatively, the debt collector received prior consent to use the number to communicate with the consumer about the debt by text message and the consumer has not withdrawn that consent and the debt collector has further reassurances such as:
•Within the past 60 days, the debt collector obtained that prior consent or renewed consent from the consumer or
•Within the past 60 days, the debt collector confirmed the phone number had not been reassigned to someone else since the date of most recent consent.
There is a bona fide error defense under the FDCPA (Section 813(c)). If the debt collector has followed the text message and email procedures described in detail in Regulation F and implemented reasonable procedures to keep the communications limited to only the permitted parties, then they fall within the safe harbor.
Although the parameters of Regulation F are more detailed than we've summarized here, the overall takeaway is that this guidance will take out the guesswork in debt collector-consumer interactions. It will likely also require investment in technology as collectors will need to ensure their automated systems integrate these regulations into their processes and train their teams carefully. In the long run, the bright lines will make the collection process more predictable and reduce compliance risk. To read more click here.