NYDFS issues proposed amendment to third-party debt collection rules
On December 15, NYDFS announced a proposed amendment to 23 NYCRR 1, which regulates third-party debt collectors and debt buyers. The proposed amendment factored in findings from NYDFS investigations, which revealed instances of abusive and deceptive debt collection practices, as well as consumer debt collection complaint data. According to acting Superintendent Adrienne A. Harris, the “proposed amendment requires clear communication on consumer debt obligations and ensures the consumer has the right information to dispute the validity of the debt.” The proposed regulation will mitigate predatory debt collection by taking measures to ensure consumers only pay debts they owe and only pay them once. Harris added that the proposed amendment will offer enhanced consumer protections by increasing transparency, requiring enhanced disclosures, reducing misleading statements about consumer debt obligations, and limiting harassment by placing stricter limits on debt collection phone calls than those currently imposed under federal regulations. Among other things, the proposed amendment also:
- Defines “communication” as “the conveying of information regarding a debt directly or indirectly to any person through any medium.”
- Defines “creditor” as “any person or such person’s successor in interest by way of merger, acquisition, or otherwise, to whom a debt is owed or allegedly owed.”
- Amends the definition of “debt collector” to include “any creditor that, in collecting its own debts, uses any name other than its own that would suggest or indicate that someone other than such creditor is collecting or attempting to collect such debts.” The definition also includes certain exemptions, such as persons “performing the activity of serving or attempting to serve legal process” in the judicial enforcement of a debt “or serving, filing, or conveying” other specified documents pursuant to rules of civil procedure, but that are “not a party to, or providing legal representation to a party to, the action[.]”
- Requires collectors to clearly and conspicuously send written notification within 5 days after an initial communication with a consumer letting the consumer know specific information about the debt, including (i) validation information; (ii) the type of reference date used to determine the itemization date; (iii) account information associated with the debt; (iv) merchant/affinity/facility brand association; (v) the date the last payment (including any partial payment) was made; and (vi) the statute of limitations, if applicable.
- Requires collectors to inform consumers they have “the right to dispute the validity of the debt, in part or in whole,” and provides instructions on how consumers may dispute the validity of the debt.
- States that certain disclosures may not be sent exclusively through an electronic communication, and prohibits treating a formal pleading in a civil action as an initial communication.
- Provides that, if a collector “has reason to know or has determined” that the statute of limitations on a debt it seeks to collect has expired, the collector is required to provide clear and conspicuous notice in all communications that, among other items, it believes the statute of limitations has expired. For debts not subject to a statute of limitations, collectors must notify consumers that they are “not required to provide the debt collector with an admission, affirmation, or acknowledgment of the debt, a promise to pay the debt, or a waiver of the statute of limitations.”
- Prohibits collectors from communicating by telephone or other means of oral communication when attempting to collect on debts for which the statute of limitations has expired, without certain consent or permission.
- Requires collectors to provide consumers written substantiation of a debt (no longer specified as a “charged-off” debt) in hard copy by mail within 30 days of receiving a request for substantiation of a debt (unless a consumer has consented to receiving electronic communications). The written substantiation must include, among other information, (i) a statement describing the complete chain of title from the creditor “to which the debt was originally owed or alleged to be owed” to the present creditor “or owner of the debt”; and (ii) notice that a consumer may request additional documentation and instructions on how to make such a request. Collectors are also required to provide within 30 days after the consumer makes such a request for substantiation, documents sufficient to establish the complete chain of title, including documents sufficient to establish the specific dates on which the debt was assigned, sold or transferred and names of each previous owner of the account to the current owner.
- Requires collectors to retain certain information on a debt “until the debt is discharged, sold, or transferred, or for 7 years, whichever is longer.”
- Requires collectors to provide written confirmation of the satisfaction of a debt to a consumer within 20 business days of receiving receipt of the satisfaction of a debt. The confirmation must include the name of the creditor to which the debt was originally owed and the account number unless stipulated otherwise.
- Limits collectors to 1 telephone call and 3 attempted telephone calls in a 7-day period per alleged debt, without certain consents or permission, “except that telephone calls in excess of one time per seven day period are permitted when” a consumer requests to be contacted or when the communication is required under the proposed amendment or other federal or state law.
- Permits collectors to communicate with persons through electronic channels to collect a debt only if (i) the person has voluntarily provided certain contact information to the debt collector; and (ii) the person has given certain revocable consent in writing directly to the debt collector. The proposed amendment also provides (i) certain disclosure requirements for electronic communications “initiated by” a collector; (ii) privacy requirements that incorporate 15 U.S. Code § 1692c(b); and (iii) outlines compliance requirements for collectors should a consumer revoke consent.