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CFPB Final Collections Rule Contact Frequency Limitations

  • Written by Steel Rose

 Among the items proposed in the CFPB’s NPRM that were adopted in its final collections rule are restrictions on call attempts and a limited content message definition.  While many observers are somewhat dismayed that the proposed call frequency limitations were adopted, the Bureau’s inclusion of a rebuttable presumption standard in the final rule was a notable departure from the NPRM.  Additionally, many observers appear to approve of the Bureau’s decision to permit a debt collector to include its name in a limited content message as defined in the final rule, although concern remains about whether that information will be enough to alert consumers of the opportunity return the call and resolve their debt.

With respect to the final rule’s call attempt restrictions, a debt collector may not place more than seven telephone calls to a person within seven consecutive days in connection with the collection of debt, or within a period of seven consecutive days after having had a telephone conversation with the person in connection with the collection of such debt. See § 1006.14(b)(1).  Further, under the rule, voicemails left for the consumer, including ringless voicemails, count as “calls” for purposes of calculating the call attempt limitation, as do limited content messages left for consumers (notwithstanding that such messages are not “collection calls” within the meaning of the FDCPA).  Calls excluded from the call attempt calculation include calls placed with prior consent given directly to the debt collector and which are returned by the collector within a period no longer than seven consecutive days after receiving that consent; calls that do not connect to the dialed number; and calls placed to certain professional persons. See § 1006.14(b)(3).

While the call attempt restrictions apply on a per debt basis (meaning 7 call attempts can be placed on each debt owed by the consumer in any 7-day period), an aggregate approach is taken with student loans serviced under a single account number.  The final rule added commentary that provides illustrative examples of how a debt collector should properly place telephone calls when collecting on multiple debts from the same consumer. See comment 14(b)(4)–2.  This commentary provides a mechanism to maximize call attempts when a debt collector is working on several different debts, but it requires debt collectors to “count” unsuccessful call attempts toward one particular debt, even if a successful call would have included a discussion of more than one of the debts.To read more click here

On November 13, 2020, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET, Ballard Spahr LLP will present a webinar on the CFPB’s final collection rule.