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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

DFPI issues proposal on debt collection licensing

Licensing State Issues State Regulators DFPI California Debt Collection

On July 15, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued an invitation for comments on draft text for a proposed second rulemaking (NPRM) related to the scope, annual report, and document retention requirements under the Debt Collection Licensing Act (the Act). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2020, California passed and adopted the Act, which requires a person engaging in the business of debt collection in California to be licensed and provides for the regulation and oversight of debt collectors by DFPI. Previously, DFPI issued an NPRM (which was later amended) to adopt new debt collector licensing requirements by regulation (covered by InfoBytes here).

The newest NPRM follows an August 2021 initial request for comments on anticipated rulemaking related to the scope, annual report, and bond amount increase provisions of the Act (covered by InfoBytes here). The NPRM seeks input from stakeholders on topics related to:

  • Definitions and terms. Amendments and expansions to certain defined terms, including “employee,” “engage in the business of debt collection,” and “net proceeds generated by California debtor accounts.”
  • Exemptions. Under the NPRM, employees of debt collectors will not be required to be licensed under the Act “when acting within the scope of their employment” with a licensed debt collector. Additionally, the Act’s listed exemptions apply only to the underlying applicant or licensee—the exemption is not applicable to parent entities, subsidiaries, or to affiliates. The NPRM further provides that creditors collecting consumer debts in their own names are not considered to be debt collectors for licensing purposes, unless they meet certain criteria. The NPRM also lists other exemptions for persons solely servicing non-defaulted debts on behalf of an original creditor, healthcare providers, local, state, or federal government bodies, or public utilities acting under the supervision of the California Public Utilities Commission.
  • Consumer credit transactions. The NPRM specifies that the following types of debt are not considered “consumer debt” to be regulated under the Act: most residential rental debt, debt owed to an HOA or other equivalent written agreement, deferred debt from a consumer’s acquisition of healthcare or medical services, and failed personal checks.
  • Annual reports. The NPRM’s reporting requirements state, with respect to annual reporting requirements, that the “total number of California debtor accounts should be counted by transaction, not by debtor” (i.e., should a single debtor have multiple accounts, each account should be counted separately). The NPRM also outlines criteria for reporting the total number of accounts and dollar amounts.
  • Record retention. With respect to document retention, licensees will be obliged to follow specific criteria for preserving the records “of any contact with, or attempt to contact, anyone associated with a debtor account, regardless of who initiated the contact and whether the attempt at contact is successful.” Licensees will be required to retain this information, as well as additional documents, for at least seven years after the account is settled, returned to the creditor, sold, or collection attempts have stopped.

Comments to the NPRM are due August 29.