The new rules clarify how debt collectors can use email, text messages, social media, and other contemporary methods to communicate with consumers. It also enables borrowers to limit the ability of debt collectors to contact them through such communication methods.
While debt collectors are able to contact borrowers via an array of communication methods, the 1977 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits harassing, abusive, and unfair debt collection practices as well as false and misleading representations by debt collectors.
Under the new rules, debt collectors who contact borrowers on social media have to identify themselves as such and give consumers the option to opt of out being contacted online.
That option needs to be “a reasonable and simple method to opt-out of such communications at a specific email address or telephone number.”
Any messages they send must be done so privately, meaning they cannot post on the borrower’s public page, however, debt collectors are able to send a friend request or follow the consumer, as long as they provide identifying information.
A debt collector is presumed to violate federal law if they “place telephone calls to a particular person in connection with the collection of a particular debt more than seven times within seven consecutive days or within seven consecutive days of having had a telephone conversation about the debt,” as per the new rules.
Debt collectors are also prohibited from using or threatening to sue consumers on time-barred debt and are required to take “specific steps” to disclose the existence of a debt to consumers before reporting information about the debt to a consumer reporting agency.
Specifically, debt collectors must speak with the consumer in person or wait at least 14 days after sending a letter or virtual communication before reporting them to a credit rating agency.