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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB finalizes debt collection disclosure rules

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance CFPB Debt Collection FDCPA Regulation F

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

On December 18, the CFPB issued a final rule amending Regulation F, which implements the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, clarifying the information debt collectors must provide to consumers at the outset of collection communications and providing a model validation notice containing such information. (See also the Bureau’s Executive Summary.) The final rule also prohibits debt collectors from bringing or threatening to bring legal action against a consumer to collect time-barred debt, and requires debt collectors to take certain actions before furnishing information about a consumer’s debt to a consumer reporting agencies (CRA). Among other things, the final rule addresses the following:

  • Validation notice. The final rule clarifies that debt collectors may provide “clear and conspicuous” debt validation notices in writing or electronically when commencing debt collection communications. Validation notices must include a statement indicating that the communication is from a debt collector, along with additional information such as itemization-related information, the current amount of debt, consumer protection information, and information for consumers who may choose to dispute the debt or take other actions. The final rule also outlines optional content that debt collectors may choose to include while retaining the safe harbor for using the model notice, provided that “the optional content is no more prominent than the required content.” The final rule also revises the definition of “consumer” used in a separate final rule issued by the Bureau at the end of October (covered by InfoBytes here). The December final rule’s definition now includes both living and deceased consumers.
  • Safe harbor for model validation notices. Debt collectors who choose to use the model validation notice are in compliance with the final rule’s content requirements. Additionally, the use of a model validation notice would not be considered a violation of the prohibition on conduct that “overshadows” a consumer’s rights during the validation period. The final rule outlines additional safe harbors, and provides examples where a safe harbor generally will not apply. Notably, the safe harbor does not cover validation notice delivery methods and timing requirements.
  • Translations. Debt collectors who choose to provide validation notices in other languages must also include an English-language notice in the same communication.
  • Credit reporting. The final rule requires debt collectors to either speak to a consumer in person, send an email or letter, or try to speak with a consumer by telephone before furnishing any information to a CRA. Communications sent via email or letter will require a 14 day waiting period to allow for a “reasonable period of time” to receive a notice of undeliverability.
  • Time-barred debt. The final rule prohibits debt collectors from suing or threatening to sue consumers when attempting to collect time-barred debt. Proofs of claim filed in connection with a bankruptcy proceeding are not included in this prohibition.

The final rule takes effect November 30, 2021.

More information from Buckley on the details of the newest debt collection final rule will be available soon.

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