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Colorado establishes medical debt collection requirements
On May 4, the Colorado governor signed SB 23-093 to cap the interest rate on medical debt at three percent per year. The Act outlines numerous provisions, including that entities collecting on a medical debt must provide a consumer with a written copy of a payment plan within seven days for medical debt that is payable in four or more installments. The Act also outlines requirements for accelerating or declaring a payment plan longer operative, and lays out prohibited actions (such as collecting on a debt or reporting a debt to a consumer reporting agency within a certain timeframe) relating to medical debt that an entity knows, or reasonably should know, is under review or being appealed. An entity that files a legal action to collect a medical debt must provide to a consumer (upon written request) an itemized statement concerning the debt and must allow a consumer to dispute the debt’s validity after receiving the statement. Entities are prohibited from engaging in collection activities until the itemized statement is delivered. The Act outlines self-pay requirements and estimates, and further provides that it is a deceptive trade practice to violate outlined provisions relating to billing practices, surprise billing, and balance billing laws. The Act takes effect immediately and applies to contracts entered into after the effective date.
Colorado restricts vehicle value protection agreements
On March 23, the Colorado governor signed SB 23-015, which prohibits placing conditions on the terms of a vehicle sale, lease, or the extension or terms of credit, upon the purchase of a vehicle value protection agreement. In addition, the bill requires, among other things, that such agreements must outline eligibility requirements, coverage conditions or exclusions, provide certain consumer notices, and must benefit the consumer “upon the trade-in, total loss, or unrecovered theft of a covered vehicle.” Providers of such agreements must also obtain a contractual liability insurance policy that guarantees their obligations under the agreement. Finally, the act establishes that value protection agreements themselves are not insurance and are exempt from state insurance regulations.
Colorado finalizes privacy rules
On March 15, the Colorado attorney general’s office finalized rules to implement and enforce the Colorado Privacy Act (CPA). The final rules, which went through three draft versions (covered by InfoBytes here), were filed with the Colorado Secretary of State following completion of a review by the attorney general’s office. (See redline version of the final rules showing changes made to address concerns raised through public comments here.) As previously covered by a Special Alert, the CPA was enacted in July 2021 to establish a framework for personal data privacy rights. The CPA, which is effective July 1, 2023 with certain opt-out provisions taking effect July 1, 2024, provides consumers with numerous rights, including the right to access their personal data, opt-out of certain uses of personal data, make corrections to personal data, request deletion of personal data, and obtain a copy of personal data in a portable format. Under the CPA, the attorney general has enforcement authority for the law, which does not have a private right of action. In addition to promulgating rules to carry out the requirements of the CPA, the attorney general has authority to issue interpretive guidance and opinion letters, as well as the authority to develop technical specifications for at least one universal opt-out mechanism. Colorado is one of several states that have enacted comprehensive privacy laws that take effect in 2023, joining California, Connecticut, Utah, and Virginia. (Covered by InfoBytes here, here, here, and here.) The final rules will be published in the Colorado Register in March and will go into effect July 1.
Colorado releases privacy act updates
Last month, the Colorado attorney general released a third version of draft rules to implement and enforce the Colorado Privacy Act (CPA). A hearing on the proposed draft rules was held February 1. As previously covered by a Special Alert, the CPA was enacted in July 2021 to establish a framework for personal data privacy rights. The CPA, which is effective July 1, 2023 with certain opt-out provisions taking effect July 1, 2024, provides consumers with numerous rights, including the right to access their personal data, opt-out of certain uses of personal data, make corrections to personal data, request deletion of personal data, and obtain a copy of personal data in a portable format. Under the CPA, the attorney general has enforcement authority for the law, which does not have a private right of action. The attorney general also has authority to promulgate rules to carry out the requirements of the CPA and issue interpretive guidance and opinion letters, as well as the authority to develop technical specifications for at least one universal opt-out mechanism. The attorney general previously released two versions of the draft rules last year (covered by InfoBytes here and here).
The third set of draft rules seeks to address additional concerns raised through public comments and makes a number of changes, including:
- Clarifying definitions. The modifications add, delete, and amend several definitions, including those related to “bona fide loyalty program,” “information that a [c]ontroller has a reasonable basis to believe the [c]onsumer has lawfully made available to the general public,” “publicly available information,” “revealing,” and “sensitive data inference” or “sensitive data inferences.” Among other things, the definition of “publicly available information” has been narrowed by removing the exception to the definition that had excluded publicly available information that has been combined with non-publicly available information. Additionally, sensitive data inferences now refer to inferences which “are used to” indicate certain sensitive characteristics.
- Right to opt out and right to access. The modifications outline controller requirements for complying with opt-out requests, including when opt-out requests must be completed, as well as provisions for how privacy notice opt-out disclosures must be sent to consumers, and how consumers are to be provided mechanisms for opting-out of the processing of personal data for profiling that results in the provision or denial of financial or lending services or other opportunities. With respect to the right to access, controllers must implement and maintain reasonable data security measures when processing any documentation related to a consumer’s access request.
- Right to correct and right to delete. Among other changes, the modifications add language providing consumers with the right to correct inaccuracies and clarify that a controller “may decide not to act upon a [c]onsumer’s correction request if the [c]ontroller determines that the contested [p]ersonal [d]ata is more likely than not accurate” and has exhausted certain specific requirements. The modifications add requirements for when a controller determines that certain personal data is exempted from an opt-out request.
- Notice and choice of universal opt-out mechanisms. The modifications specify that disclosures provided to consumers do not need to be tailored to Colorado or refer to Colorado “or to any other specific provisions of these rules or the Colorado Privacy Act examples.” Additionally, a platform, developer, or provider that provides a universal opt-out mechanism may, but is not required to, authenticate that a user is a resident of the state.
- Controller obligations. Among other things, a controller may choose to honor an opt-out request received through a universal opt-out mechanism before July 1, 2024, may respond by choosing to opt a consumer out of all relevant opt-out rights should the universal opt-out mechanism be unclear, and may choose to authenticate that a user is a resident of Colorado but is not required to do so.
- Purpose specification. The modifications state that controllers “should not specify so many purposes for which [p]ersonal [d]ata could potentially be processed to cover potential future processing activities that the purpose becomes unclear or uninformative.” Controllers must modify disclosures and necessary documentation if the processing purpose has “evolved beyond the original express purpose such that it becomes a distinct purpose that is no longer reasonably necessary to or compatible with the original express purpose.”
- User interface design, choice architecture, and dark patterns. The modifications provide that a consumer’s “ability to exercise a more privacy-protective option shall not be unduly longer, more difficult, or time-consuming than the path to exercise a less privacy-protective option.” The modifications also specify principles that should be considered when designing a user interface or a choice architecture used to obtain consent, so that it “does not impose unequal weight or focus on one available choice over another such that a [c]onsumer’s ability to consent is impaired or subverted.”
Additional modifications have been made to personal data use limitations, technical specifications, public lists of universal opt-out mechanisms, privacy notice content, loyalty programs, duty of care, and data protection assessments. Except for provisions with specific delayed effective dates, the rules take effect July 1 if finalized.
On February 28, the attorney general announced that the revised rules were adopted on February 23, but are subject to a review by the attorney general and may require additional edits before they can be finalized and published in the Colorado Register.
Colorado AG releases consumer lending study
On January 23, the Colorado attorney general announced that it sent a study examining the availability of consumer lending in the state to the Colorado General Assembly. Among other things, the study analyzed the availability of safe and affordable credit in Colorado and focused on the availability of two types of loans: (i) small-dollar loans, defined as loans up to $1,000, and (ii) larger installment loans.
Regarding small-dollar loans in Colorado, Proposition 111 enacted in 2018, capped rates on deferred deposit loans at 36 percent. As such, the study noted that there was a significant decrease in the number of lenders who were making deferred deposit (payday) loans and the number of licensed locations as of 2018. It was reported that 95,747 individuals in Colorado obtained alternative charge loans in 2021, which represented a significant decline from 2018. The study also found that, while there was a drop in the number of retail outlets, available evidence indicates consumers who qualify are able to obtain alternative charge loans, given the growth of online lending.
The affordability of alternative charge borrowers is mixed, according to the report. It appears that about one in five borrowers experience substantial difficulty in making the required payments. Other measures suggest a substantially lower percentage struggle.
Regarding larger installment loans, 39,295 consumers obtained “Other Supervised Loans” (defined as loans with an APR above 12 percent) from non-depositories, and non-depositories took by assignment an additional 87,880 Other Supervised Loans in 2021. The number of originated Other Supervised Loans in 2021 was nearly identical to the number originated in 2019. Overall, 25.9 percent of consumers who applied for Other Supervised Loans were approved.
Credit unions to pay $4 million in GAP fee refunds
On January 4, the Colorado attorney general announced settlements with two credit unions that will pay a combined $4 million in refunds to borrowers in the state who were entitled to “guaranteed automobile protection” (GAP) fee refunds. An investigation conducted by the Consumer Protection Section of the Colorado Department of Law found that the credit unions historically failed to refund unearned GAP fees owed to consumers. According to the state, the credit unions act as creditors by purchasing retail installment sales contracts from auto dealers that include GAP purchased by Colorado consumers. The state explained in its announcement that borrowers pay the full GAP fee when they purchase a car (the fee is typically only earned gradually over the loan’s lifetime). However, should a borrower prepay the loan prior to maturity or the car is repossessed and sold at auction before the loan is paid off, Colorado law requires lenders to refund the unearned portion of the GAP fee to the borrower, the state said.
The assurances of discontinuance (see here and here) apply to all consumer credit transactions entered into with consumers in the state related to any alleged unfair conduct committed by the credit unions related to GAP fee refund practices. In additional to paying consumer remediation and $100,000 each to the state, the credit unions also agreed to alter their business practices to ensure that applicable refunds will be provided to consumers going forward.
Colorado releases second draft of Colorado Privacy Act rules
On December 21, the Colorado attorney general released a second set of draft rules for the Colorado Privacy Act (CPA). As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the CPA was enacted in July 2021 to establish a framework for personal data privacy rights. The CPA, which is effective July 1, 2023 with certain opt-out provisions taking effect July 1, 2024, provides consumers with numerous rights, including the right to access their personal data, opt-out of certain uses of personal data, make corrections to personal data, request deletion of personal data, and obtain a copy of personal data in a portable format. Under the CPA, the AG has enforcement authority for the law, which does not have a private right of action. The AG also has authority to promulgate rules to carry out the requirements of the CPA and issue interpretive guidance and opinion letters, as well as the authority to develop technical specifications for at least one universal opt-out mechanism. The first set of draft rules was issued last September and published by the Secretary of State on October 10 (covered by InfoBytes here).
The second set of draft rules seeks to address concerns raised through public comments as well as feedback received during three stakeholder sessions. The AG seeks specific input on questions related to (i) clarifications to definitions; (ii) the use of IP addresses to verify consumer opt-out requests; (iii) implementation of a universal opt-out mechanism; (iv) controller obligations related to meaningful privacy notices; and (v) bona fide loyalty programs. Among other things, the modifications would:
- Clarify definitions. The modifications add, delete, and amend several definitions, including those related to “biometric identifiers,” “commercial product or service,” “controller,” “employee,” “employer,” “employment records,” “noncommericial purpose,” “personal data,” “process,” “processor,” “profiling,” and terms involving automated processing.
- Update universal opt-out mechanism. The modifications grant controllers six months from the date a universal opt-out mechanism is recognized by the AG to begin complying with that new mechanism. An initial public list of approved opt-out mechanisms will be published no later than January 1, 2024, and will be updated periodically.
- Clarify security measures and duty of care. The modifications provide additional details about the duty to safeguard personal data, and will require controllers to, among other things, consider “[a]pplicable industry standards and frameworks,” and the sensitivity, amount, and original source of the personal data when identifying reasonable and appropriate safeguards. The modifications also include provisions related to the processing of sensitive data inferences and specifies deletion requirements.
- Reduce data protection assessment requirements. The modifications reduce the information that must be included in a controller’s data protection assessment.
- Address refreshing of consumer consent. The modifications provide that consumer consent must be refreshed when a consumer has not interacted with the controller in the last 12 months, and (i) the controller is processing sensitive personal information; or (ii) is processing personal data for secondary data use that involves profiling for a decision that could result “in the provision or denial of financial or lending services, housing, insurance, education enrollment or opportunity, criminal justice, employment opportunities, health-care services, or access to essential goods or services.” However, controllers will not be required to refresh consent in situations where consumers have the ability to update their own opt-out preferences at any time.
Comments on the second set of draft rules are due February 1. If the formal rulemaking hearing on the proposed rules (scheduled for February 1) extends beyond that date, comments must be received on or before the last day of the hearing.
Colorado releases draft Colorado Privacy Act rules
On September 29, the Colorado attorney general published proposed draft Colorado Privacy Act (CPA) rules with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. (See Colorado Register here.) As covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the CPA was enacted last July to establish a framework for personal data privacy rights. The CPA provides consumers with numerous rights, including the right to access their personal data, opt-out of certain uses of personal data, make corrections to personal data, request deletion of personal data, and obtain a copy of personal data in a portable format. The CPA is effective July 1, 2023 with certain opt-out provisions taking effect July 1, 2024. Under the CPA, the AG has enforcement authority for the law, which does not have a private right of action. The AG also has authority to promulgate rules to carry out the requirements of the CPA and issue interpretive guidance and opinion letters, as well as the authority to develop technical specifications for at least one universal opt-out mechanism.
Pre-rulemaking considerations were released in April, where the AG’s office stated that it planned to adopt a principle-based model for the state’s rulemaking approach, rather than a prescriptive one (covered by InfoBytes here). Comments received on the pre-rulemaking considerations, as well as feedback received during two public listening sessions, were considered when drafting the proposed rules. The AG’s office explained that when considering feedback it sought to clarify the CPA, simplify compliance, and ensure consumer privacy rights granted by the statute are protected, while also attempting to create a legal framework that “does not overly burden technological innovation” while operating in conjunction with other national, state, and international data privacy laws.
- Definitions. The proposed rules add new terms aside from those already set forth in the CPA. These include terms related to biometric data and identifiers (including behavioral characteristics), bona fide loyalty programs, data brokers, automated processing, publicly available data, opt-out purposes and mechanisms, sensitive data inferences, and solely automated processing. The term “sensitive data inferences” indicates an individual’s racial or ethnic origin, religious beliefs, mental or physical health condition or diagnosis, sex life or sexual orientation, or citizenship or citizenship status. Controllers must obtain consent to process sensitive data inferences unless they meet specific requirements. Additionally, controllers must comply with certain retention and deletion requirements for this type of information.
- Disclosures. The proposed rules provide that disclosures, notifications, and other communications to consumers must be clear, accessible, and understandable, and must be available in the languages in which the controller would ordinarily do business, as well as be accessible to consumers with disabilities (online notices should generally follow recognized industry standards such as version 2.1 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
- Consumer personal data rights. The proposed rules outline requirements for submitting data rights requests, including through online and in-person methods, and requires controllers to use reasonable data security measures when exchanging information. Among other things, requests should be easy to execute, require a minimal number of steps, and not require a consumer to create a new user account. Notably, a data rights request method does not have to be specific to Colorado, provided it “clearly indicates which rights are available to Colorado consumers.” Controllers must also provide instructions on how to appeal a data rights request decision.
- Opt-out rights and mechanisms. Under the proposed rules, controllers must cease processing a consumer’s personal data for opt-out purposes as soon as feasibly possible but no later than 15 days after the request is received (authorized agents may exercise a consumer’s opt-out right provided certain criteria is met). A record of opt-out requests and responses also must be maintained. Clear and conspicuous opt-out methods must be provided in a controller’s privacy notice, as well as in a readily accessible location outside the privacy notice “at or before the time” the personal data is processed for opt-out purposes. The proposed rules also provide that the Colorado Department of Law will maintain a public list of universal opt-out mechanisms that have been recognized by the AG’s office as meeting the required standards. The proposed rules also provide details for deployment, and state that ease of use, implementation, and detection, among other factors will be considered when determining which universal opt-out mechanisms will be recognized. Additionally, the proposed rules state that a universal opt-out mechanism may also be a “do not sell list” that controllers query in an automated manner.
- Right of access, and right to correction, deletion, and data portability. The proposed rules outline controller requirements for handling consumers’ requests to access, correct, or delete their personal data, as well as instructions for complying with data portability requests. The proposed rules also consider instances where personal data may be corrected more quickly and easily through account settings than through the data rights review process.
- Data minimization. Under the proposed rules, controllers would be required to “specify the express purposes” for which personal data is collected and processed in a manner that is “sufficiently unambiguous, specific, and clear.” Controllers must also consider each processing activity to determine whether it meets the requirement to use only the minimum personal information necessary, adequate, or relevant for the express purpose.
- Data protection assessments. The proposed rules provide a list of 18 elements for controllers to include when assessing whether a processing activity presents a “heightened risk of harm,” including the specific purpose of the processing activity, procedural safeguards, alternative processing activities, discrimination harms, and the dates the assessment was reviewed and approved. The proposed rules also require that these assessments be revisited and updated at least annually in certain instances for fairness and disparate impact. Assessments are required for activities conducted after July 1, 2023, and are not retroactive.
- Profiling. Under the proposed rules, controllers are obligated to clearly inform consumers when their personal data is being used for profiling. Consumers must also have the right to opt out of profiling in connection with decisions that result in legal or similar effects on consumers, and controllers that engage in profiling must provide additional disclosures in their privacy notices. A controller may deny a consumer’s request to opt out if there is human involvement in the automated processing, but is required to provide additional notice in such cases.
The proposed rules also contain provisions addressing requirements for refreshing consent, how data right requests impact loyalty programs and the disclosures that are required for these programs, and how a consumer’s right to delete might impact a controller’s ability to provide program benefits.
Comments on the proposed rules will be accepted between October 10 and February 1, 2023. On February 1, a proposed rulemaking public hearing will be held to hear testimony from stakeholders.
Colorado issues remote work guidance to collection agencies
On August 19, the Colorado attorney general published updated guidance on remotely working for employees of entities regulated by the Consumer Credit Unit. Memorandum HB 22-1410, which was signed by the governor on June 7, amended Colorado’s Uniform Consumer Credit Code so that a supervised lender licensee may permit its employees to work from a remote location, so long as the licensee complies with certain requirements. The memorandum also provided that the March 2020 guidance issued by the Consumer Credit Unit Administrator for employees of regulated entities during the COVID-19 pandemic “remains in effect for regulated entities not covered by HB22-1410, including collection agencies, debt management providers, and student loan servicers, and will remain in effect until the last day of the 2023 legislative session of the 74th General Assembly, May 10, 2023.” The memorandum also noted that “due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, individuals who work for regulated entities may be required, or wish, to work from home to avoid further spread of the outbreak, even though their homes are not licensed as branches.”
The memorandum also disclosed that the state will not take any administrative, disciplinary, or enforcement actions for individuals working at home in what are technically unlicensed branches as long as certain criteria are met: (i) “The Colorado activity is conducted from the home location of an individual working on behalf of an entity who is licensed, registered, or files notification with the Administrator”; (ii) “The individual is working from home due to a reason connected to the Covid-19 outbreak and has informed the regulated entity in writing”; (iii) “None of the Colorado activity will be conducted in person with members of the public at the home location”; (iv) “Individuals working from home will not advertise, receive official mail directly, or permanently store any books or records at their remote location”; (v) “The Colorado licensee shall at all times exercise reasonable supervision of the licensable activity being performed at the home office and ensure sufficient safeguards to protect consumer information and data security”; and (vi) “The individual ceases conducting the activity from the home location as soon as reasonably possible, consistent with recommendations from the CDC, CDPHE, and applicable state health departments.”
Colorado reminds collection agencies about medical law
On August 16, the Colorado attorney general published a memorandum reminding collection agency licensees and interested parties that HB21-1198 becomes effective September 1. HB21-1198, among other things, amends the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to add a new unfair practice—attempting to collect a debt that violates certain HB21-1198 requirements. The bill also creates requirements for notice and certain limitations on collections of medical debt. Specifically, the bill enacts healthcare billing requirements for indigent patients who are treated, but not reimbursed, through the state’s indigent care program and sets forth requirements before any collection proceeding may be initiated against an indigent patient.