The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s debt collection rules, or Regulation F, adds new clarity and guidelines to what is acceptable behavior for these collection agencies.
Updates went into effect at the end of November 2021 amending a more than 40-year-old ruling that now allows creditors to use email, text messaging, social media and other forms of modern communication to contact people who owe money on debts.
There are a lot of stipulations and details in this ruling, but here are some of the key takeaways to remember and how you can make sure you are in compliance.
One of the biggest takeaways from the Reg. F rules is that if a creditor wants to use one of the methods listed above to contact consumers, they have to make sure they identify themselves as a creditor upfront.
As a best practice, you should ask for consumers’ consent early and ask them if it’s OK to contact them in the method you chose or if there’s a better route to take to communicate.
On your business’ website you can encourage consumers to text or email you first, which gives them a chance to opt-in to certain communications.
You can also discuss these Terms of Service when you talk to any new clients.
Encourage collectors to ask things early in the relationship with a new client like, “Is this still the best way to contact you?” Or “Can I get an email address so I can contact you?”
If you message someone via social media, the ruling is clear that you should:
- Keep all messages private
- Give your consumers an opportunity to opt out of receiving messages in this way.
By identifying yourself early and asking these questions, you can gauge the response and see if you need to pivot in order to contact by one of the other methods and within time constraints.
Know When and How Often to Contact
Another key to compliance is making sure you don’t berate your consumers with calls at all hours of the day, multiple times a day.
Reg. F is very clear on the rules of not contacting someone during an inconvenient time, which means before 8 a.m. or 9 p.m. — these times depend on which time zone consumers live in.
Reg. F also restricts agencies to contacting a consumer seven times within seven consecutive days.
Limited Content Message
The ruling also specifies if you are contacting consumers with a voicemail message what information “a debt collector must and may include in a voicemail message for consumers.”
This message must include a business name and a name of a person for consumers to reach back out to, a request that the consumer reply to your message, a telephone number to call and, if it’s delivered electronically, you have to provide consumers a way to stop receiving messages through this medium.
Here’s a further breakdown of what constitutes a Limited Content Message and here’s an example of what one sounds like.
We get it. Reaching consumers is not always easy, but there are steps you must take in order to make sure you are attempting to do so in a compliant way. If you want to discuss a strategy for communicating with your consumers or how to make sure you are staying compliant, reach out to us.