PHILADELPHIA — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed rule change to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which would limit the number of times debt collectors can call consumers, “will likely force creditors to turn to [increased] litigation or credit reporting,” ACA International Chief Executive Mark Neeb said at the agency’s first town hall meeting last week. The contact cap would limit debt collectors to calling consumers seven times per week, per debt.
“[ACA International] doesn’t believe that one-size-fits-all in debt collection,” he said. “The number of times needed to connect with a consumer may vary depending on the market, the type of debt, the age of the debt, and extent to which it has been worked. Arbitrarily limiting phone contacts does not really serve the consumer,” he said, adding that the ability for debt collectors to connect with consumers is in consumers’ best interest.
Jan Stieger, executive director at Receivable Management Association International, took the argument a step further, noting that limiting communication is “difficult, and often harmful to the consumer.” For instance, disputes and identity theft situations often require collectors to speak with borrowers more frequently.
Panelists representing consumer advocacy groups, however, thought the suggested contact cap was excessive. “On average, there seven to eight unsecured debts on [our clients’] debt-management plans,” said Patricia Hasson, president and chief executive at Clarifi. “That doesn’t count student loans, auto, possibly a mortgage. So if you take that seven and multiply it by seven a week, you’re already starting at 49 calls a week.”
April Kuehnhoff, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, suggested limiting collection calls per borrower to three per week, per collector.