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  • DFPI adopts debt collector license application and requirements

    On December 22, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) adopted regulations, beginning at section 1850, title 10 of the California Code of Regulations, under the Debt Collection Licensing Act. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in July, DFPI issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to incorporate changes to its debt collection licensing requirements and application. Among other things, the regulations set forth the: (i) application form and procedures for filing a license application through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS); (ii) requirements for a licensee to maintain information filed through the NMLS current; and (iii) procedures for surrendering a license as a debt collector.

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  • DFPI acknowledges challenges in obtaining a NMLS account

    On December 23, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) released a notice on its website regarding DFPI’s awareness of a “temporary slowdown in obtaining a new Nationwide Multistate Licensing System or NMLS account.” DFPI noted that it is “working cooperatively with the NMLS team to be able to verify those that have attempted to apply.” DFPI observed that “[w]ith various DFPI year-end deadlines, the NMLS team is experiencing an unprecedented volume of account requests.” DFPI further acknowledged the “predicament this puts entities in who are trying to comply with the new debt collector licensing requirement to apply for a license by Dec. 31, 2021,” and stated it “will not take any action against a debt collector solely on the basis of the temporary slowdown with NMLS.”

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  • DFPI reminds debt collectors and buyers of December 31 application deadline

    Recently, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) reminded debt buyers and debt collectors operating in the state of California that applications must be submitted on or before December 31, 2021 through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS). The Debt Collection Licensing Act, which takes effect January 1, 2022, requires all persons engaging in the business of debt collection to be licensed by DFPI. Debt collectors that have submitted applications may continue operating in the state while the applications are pending. However, debt collectors that miss the December 31 deadline will be required to wait for the issuance of a license before operating in the state. Application materials and a checklist of requirements are available on NMLS. DFPI noted it will review applications and issue licenses in 2022 and 2023, and stated that once a debt collector is licensed it will not need to register under the California Consumer Financial Protection Law.

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  • DFPI proposes additional changes to definitions under Debt Collection Licensing Act

    On November 15, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued a second draft of proposed regulations under the Debt Collection Licensing Act (the Act). As previously covered by InfoBytes, California enacted the Act in 2020 to require a person engaging in the business of debt collecting in the state, as defined by the Act, to be licensed. The Act also provides for the regulation and oversight of debt collectors by DFPI. In April 2021, DFPI issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and proposed regulations to adopt new requirements for debt collectors seeking to obtain a license to operate in the state, and issued a notice of modifications to the NPRM in June to incorporate changes to its debt collection license requirements and application. (Covered by InfoBytes here and here.) Among other things, the proposed modifications:

    • Amend the definition of “branch office” to include any location other than an applicant’s or licensee’s principal place of business “if activity related to debt collection occurs at the location and the location is held out to the public as a business location or money is received at the location or held at the location.” The definition of “holding a location out to the public” includes receiving postal correspondence, meeting with the public, including the location on correspondence, letterhead, or business cards, and including signage at the location, or making any other representation that the location is a business location.  
    • Amend the definition of “debt collector” to align with the Act, which defines “debt collector” as “any person who, in the ordinary course of business, regularly, on the person’s own behalf or on behalf of others, engages in debt collection. The term includes any person who composes and sells, or offers to compose and sell, forms, letters and other collection media used or intended to be used for debt collection. The term ‘debt collector’ includes ‘debt buyer’ as defined in Section 1788.50 of the Civil Code.”

    Comments on the second draft of modifications must be received by December 2.

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  • DFPI fines debt collector $375k in first action under the CCFPL

    State Issues

    On September 22, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) announced its first enforcement action against a California-based debt collector and debt buyer for allegedly violating the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL) by threatening to sue consumers and furnishing negative information to a credit bureau without first notifying consumers about the alleged debt—a practice commonly known as “debt parking.” According to DFPI, consumers complained that their credit scores dropped significantly as a result. The respondent also, among other things, allegedly left voicemails that did not disclose the caller’s identity, threatened illegal lawsuits and wage garnishment (even though it never actually commenced any legal proceedings), and failed to notify consumers in writing within 30 days of transmitting negative information to the credit bureau. Under the order, the respondent is required to pay a $375,000 fine and must desist and refrain from unlawful acts or practices associated with the FDCPA, the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act.

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  • DFPI: Debt collection licensing applications due before January 1

    On September 1, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) announced that all debt collectors operating in California can apply to be licensed by the DFPI, which portrays the initial step in increased state oversight including an assessment of applications, formal examinations, and protections for California consumers. As previously covered by InfoBytes, as required under SB 908, all debt collectors must submit a license application prior to Jan. 1, 2022, to continue operating in California next year and authorizes the DFPI to take in borrowers’ complaints and enforce violations. Debt collectors, debt buyers, and debt collection attorneys operating in the state can submit their license applications here at the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS), which requires financial and other information electronically, starting September 1. The announcement notes that, “[a]ny debt collector collecting debt in the state of California must submit an application on or before Friday, Dec.  31, 2021.”  When a debt collector has submitted an application, “they may continue operating as a debt collector in California while the application is pending,” according to the DFPI. However, the applicant will be required to wait for the issuance of a license prior to continuing operations in the state if an application is submitted after December 31.

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  • DFPI issues second Debt Collection Licensing Act proposed rulemaking

    On August 19, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued an invitation for comments on a proposed second rulemaking (NPRM) under the Debt Collection Licensing Act (the Act). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2020, California enacted the Act, which requires a person engaging in the business of debt collecting in the state, as defined by the Act, to be licensed and provides for the regulation and oversight of debt collectors by DFPI. Earlier in April, DFPI issued an NPRM to adopt new debt collector licensing requirements (covered by InfoBytes here). The most recent NPRM, among other things, seeks further input from stakeholders on topics related to:

    • The scope of the Act as related to several definitions, including “debt,” “debt collection,” “person,” “consumer credit transaction,” “debt collector,” and “debt buyer,” to determine if additional clarity is necessary and whether these definitions are the same as those in California’s Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Rosenthal Act) and the Fair Debt Buying Practices Act (FDBPA).
    • Whether certain terms related to definition of a debt collector, such as “engage in the business of debt collection,” “in the ordinary course of business,” or “regularly,” require clarifying regulations.
    • Whether additional clarification is needed concerning entities or transactions exempt from the Act’s requirements.
    • Whether the term “due or owing” is clear with respect to the definition of a “debtor.”
    • Whether additional clarification is needed regarding DFPI’s authority to enforce the Rosenthal Act and the FDBPA. Under the Act, DFPI has the “authority to enforce the Rosenthal Act and the FDBPA against persons required to be licensed under the [Act] and persons expressly exempt from licensure, including certain federally regulated entities.”

    The NPRM also addresses certain provisions related to annual reports and bond amounts. Comments on the most recent proposed rulemaking are due October 5, and may be sent electronically to regulations@dfpi.ca.gov.

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  • DFPI to start accepting debt collector licensing applications on September 1

    On July 12, the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) published an announcement reminding debt collectors that all persons must apply for a license through the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) by December 31, 2021. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last September, California enacted the “Debt Collection Licensing Act” (the Act), which requires a person engaging in the business of debt collecting in the state, as defined by the Act, to be licensed and provides for the regulation and oversight of debt collectors by DFPI. Under the Act, debt collection licenses will be required starting January 1, 2022; however, debt collectors who submit applications before January 1, 2022 will be allowed to operate while their applications are pending. However, a debt collector that submits an application after December 31 must wait for DFPI to issue a license before it can operate in the state. All required application materials must be submitted through NMLS, and NMLS reminded applicants that fingerprints must also be submitted to the California Department of Justice. The application will be available on NMLS beginning September 1.

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on DFPI’s debt collector licensing requirements here.

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  • DFPI issues NPRM on debt collector licensing requirements

    On June 23, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to incorporate changes to its debt collection license requirements and application. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2020, California enacted the “Debt Collection Licensing Act” (the Act), which requires a person engaging in the business of debt collecting in the state, as defined by the Act, to be licensed and provides for the regulation and oversight of debt collectors by DFPI. In April, DFPI issued a NPRM to adopt new requirements for debt collectors seeking to obtain a license to operate in the state (covered by InfoBytes here). 

    Among other things, the most recent NPRM seeks to:

    • Revise the definition of “applicant” to clarify that an affiliate who is not applying for a license is not an applicant.
    • Include language requirements for documents filed with DFPI.
    • Clarify the requirements and appointment process of DFPI as the agent for service of process.
    • Eliminate the requirement that an applicant must file a copy of the California Department of Justice Request for Live Scan Service form for each individual with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) instead of DFPI.
    • Remove requirements regarding the submission of the management chart being submitted to DFPI, the extent to which an applicant intends to utilize third parties to perform debt collection functions, and the filing with NMLS of policies and procedures.
    • Refine requirements for maintaining media records.
    • Refine the process of filing a change in control amendment for new officers, directors, partners, and other control people.
    • Establish new branch office registration procedures.
    • Eliminate requiring the submission of the total dollar amount of debt collected from consumers to determine whether a higher surety bond is required.
    • Remove provisions that would permit DFPI to set a higher surety bond amount.

    DFPI’s notice specifies that comments on the most recent proposed modifications are due July 12.

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  • DFPI issues proposal on debt collector licensing applications

    Recently, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to adopt new requirements for debt collectors seeking to obtain a license to operate in the state. As previously covered by InfoBytes last September, California enacted the “Debt Collection Licensing Act” (the Act), which requires a person engaging in the business of debt collecting in the state, as defined by the Act, to be licensed and provides for the regulation and oversight of debt collectors by DFPI. Under the Act, debt collection licenses will be required starting January 1, 2022; however, debt collectors who submit applications before January 1, 2022 will be allowed to operate while their applications are pending.

    Among other things, the NPRM seeks to:

    • Include new sections for definitions of key terms, such as affiliate, debt buyer and debt collector.
    • Adopt several licensing application forms and require applicants to apply for a license through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS).
    • Provide requirements for obtaining a debt collector license, including for affiliates applying for a single license.
    • Add other licensure requirements, including requiring applications to (i) identify all direct owners, executive officers, and indirect owners; (ii) include the principal place of business, in addition to all branch locations; (iii) submit background checks and fingerprints; (iv) submit to a credit report check; and (v) post surety bonds of at least $25,000.
    • Specify the information required to enable the Commissioner of Financial Protection and Innovation to investigate applicants to determine whether they meet the standards for licensure.
    • Outline the process for challenging information entered in NMLS, as well as the grounds for which the Commissioner may deny an application.

    According to DFPI’s notice, if adopted, the final rule would take effect on or about November 19, 2021 and permit debt collectors to apply for a license prior to January 1, 2022. Additionally, DFPI announced its intention to adopt additional regulations later in 2022 to specify the requirements for maintaining books and records and set forth the amounts required for a surety bond based on a licensee’s volume of debt collection activity.

    Comments on the NPRM are due by June 8.

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