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On September 23, the District of Columbia mayor signed B24-0357, which updates the District’s collection laws by expanding protections to cover most consumer debt, in addition to strengthening existing protections for DC consumers. Among other things, the bill: (i) prohibits deceptive behavior from debt collectors, such as making threats; (ii) clarifies that no one can be jailed for failing to pay a debt; (iii) prohibits debt collectors from communicating any information regarding a person’s debt to employers or family members; and (vi) clarifies that debt buyers are required to follow all laws applicable to debt collectors. The law is currently effective.
D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking says certain Bitcoin activity subject to money transmission laws
Recently, the District of Columbia’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) issued a bulletin informing industry participants engaging in or planning to engage in money transmission involving Bitcoin or other virtual currency “used as a medium of exchange, method of payment or store of value in the District” that such transactions require a money transmitter license. Specifically, the bulletin noted that DISB considers Bitcoin to be money for money transmission purposes. Relying on United States v. Larry Dean Harmon, DISB stated that while “money transmission is vaguely defined in DC Code,” the court’s decision “relied on the common use of the term “money” to mean a “medium of exchange, method of payment or store of value,” and that therefore Bitcoin functions like money. The bulletin also noted that the court found that while the D.C. Money Transmitters Act of 2000 specifically defined certain banking and financial terms, it did not define “money,” thereby reasoning “that the goal of the MTA is to regulate all kinds of transfers of funds, whether fiat currency, virtual currency or cryptocurrencies.”
Additionally, DISB noted that “engaging in the business of ‘money transmission’” includes “transactions where entities receive for transmission, store, and/or take custody, of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies from consumers via kiosks (aka BTMs), mobile applications and/or online transactions.” However, transactions where entities propose to sell and buy Bitcoin and other virtual currencies from consumers in exchange for cash payments via kiosks and/or online transactions are not considered to be money transmission. Entities that plan to engage in covered activities are subject to money transmission licensing requirements, DISB stated, explaining that whether an entity is required to obtain a money transmitter license depends on the individual facts and circumstances of each applicant, which include but are not limited to an applicant’s proposed business plan and flow of funds, as well as an applicant’s business model.
On August 17, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia issued a consent order and judgment against an online delivery company resolving claims that it charged consumers millions of dollars in deceptive service fees. According to a press release issued by the D.C. AG, from 2016 until 2018, the company allegedly misled consumers into believing that service fees charged on their orders were tips that went to delivery workers. Instead, these fees went to the company to subsidize operating expenses. Without admitting any wrongdoing, the company agreed to pay $1.8 million to the district to go towards restitution and cover litigation costs. The company also agreed it will not seek refunds of $739,057 in previously disputed sales tax payments and will collect and remit sales tax on the total amount of the sales price it charges consumers going forward. Additionally, the company will cease making any misrepresentations about the nature of fees on consumer orders.
On September 1, the District of Columbia Mayor signed B24-0347, which updates the District’s collection laws by expanding protections to cover most consumer debt, including medical and credit card debt, in addition to strengthening existing protections for DC consumers. Among other things, the bill: (i) prohibits excessive communications that qualifies as harassment, including making over three phone calls in a 7-day period; (ii) increases penalties for debt collection violations; (iii) clarifies that no one can be jailed for failing to pay a debt; (iv) prohibits debt collectors to communicate any information regarding a person’s debt to their employers or family members; and (v) clarifies that debt buyers are required to follow all laws applicable to debt collectors. The law is effective September 23.
D.C. enacts law extending obligations for debt collection, credit reporting, mortgage servicing, and evictions
On March 17, the mayor of D.C. signed the Coronavirus Support Emergency Amendment Act of 2021. The act extends the most provisions of D.C.’s prior Covid-19 relief act (previously covered here and here) through June 15. Among other things, the act includes consumer protection provisions, including provisions regarding debt collection and credit reporting. It also provides housing and tenant protections, including in the areas of mortgage payment and late fee relief, and restrictions on evictions and foreclosures.
On February 22, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking would be partnering with the United Planning Organization to administer a free hotline to connect District residents who were financially harmed by Covid-19 with trained financial “navigators.” These navigators will offer advice and help connect residents to various programs and services to help manage income disruptions and other financial concerns, including foreclosure mediation.
D.C. enacts law extending obligations for debt collection, credit reporting, mortgage servicing, and evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic
On August 19, the mayor of D.C. signed the Coronavirus Support Second Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2020. The act extends the provisions of D.C.’s prior Covid-19 relief act (previously covered here), which was set to expire after 90 days, until November 16. Among other things, the act includes consumer protection provisions, including provisions regarding debt collection and credit reporting. It also provides housing and tenant protections, including in the areas of mortgage relief, restrictions on evictions, and foreclosures.
On July 7, the mayor of D.C. signed D.C. Act 23-0332, which amends the Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, previously covered here, and certain other laws to, among other things, add provisions relating to emergency credit alerts. Under the amendments, a user of a credit report may not consider adverse information in a consumer report that was the result of an action or inaction by the consumer that occurred during, and was the direct or indirect result of, a public health emergency declared by the mayor, if the credit report includes an emergency credit alert.
D.C. law creates new requirements for debt collection, creditor reporting, and mortgage servicing during the Covid-19 pandemic
On June 8, the mayor of D.C. signed the Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act, which amended and consolidated four existing emergency acts passed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic (including the Coronavirus Omnibus Emergency Amendment Act and Foreclosure Moratorium Emergency Amendment Act). Among other things, the new act includes requirements for debt collection, credit reporting, remote notarizations, mortgage lending, and eviction and foreclosure moratoriums. It requires mortgage lenders to offer 90 day payment deferrals, waive late fees, and cease negative credit reporting, subject to specific requirements. It also prohibits initiating or conducting foreclosure sales on residential mortgages for the duration of the Covid-19 public health emergency and for 60 days thereafter, subject to certain specified limitations, and prohibits residential and commercial evictions during the same time period.
District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking issues FAQs on mortgage deferment
The District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking issued responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the residential and commercial mortgage deferment program under the District of Columbia’s Covid-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. The FAQs provide guidance on, among other things, which entities and financial institutions are considered mortgage lenders under the act and therefore subject to the requirements, mortgage lenders’ obligations under the act, how borrowers should apply for the mortgage deferment plan, and record-keeping requirements under the act.