California enacts the Debt Collection Licensing Act
On September 25, California governor signed SB 908, which includes the “Debt Collection Licensing Act” (the Act). The Act requires a person engaging in the business of debt collecting in the state of California to be licensed and provides for the regulation and oversight of debt collectors by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) (the legislation refers to the DFPI as its previous name Department of Business Oversight). Debt collection licenses will be required starting January 1, 2022. Debt collectors who submit applications before January 1, 2022 will be allowed to operate while their application is pending.
The Act details the process of licensure, including application fees and background checks, and requires each licensee to (i) file reports under oath with the Commissioner; (ii) maintain a surety bond; (iii) and pay to the Commissioner its pro rata share of all costs and expenses to administer the licensing provisions. The Act requires the Commissioner to “take all actions necessary” in preparation “to fully enforce the licensing and regulatory provisions of this division, including, but not limited to, adoption of all necessary regulations” by January 1, 2022.
Moreover, in addition to the FDCPA’s general prohibition on engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the collection of consumer debts, SB 908 also prohibits California debt collectors from, among other things, (i) using profane language; (ii) placing telephone calls without disclosing the caller’s identity; (iii) communicating with debtors at a frequency that is “unreasonable,” and would “constitute harassment of the debtor under the circumstances;” and (iv) sending written or digital communications without their California license number displayed in at least 12-point sized font.