CFPB and FCC Disconnect: Debt Collection and Call Blocking

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck

On May 21, the CFPB published its long-awaited proposed rule on debt collection practices (“Proposed Rule”) in large part to address application of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) to modern collection issues. The CFPB, however, should have called the FCC before publishing a debt collection rule so heavily focused on telephone calls. In its ongoing efforts to tackle the proliferation of unwanted “robocalls,” the FCC just released a draft order that would authorize all voice services providers to offer their customers call blocking as a default service, with a right for the consumer to opt out. By blocking, the FCC means stopping the call from reaching the consumer so that the phone never rings. Clearly, the FCC’s proposed blocking regime could result in the blocking of many legitimate communications—such as payment reminders, debt relief programs or other debt servicing calls from creditors, debt collectors and loan servicers.

Like the FCC, the CFPB is concerned about invasive illegal or unwanted calling, citing it as a major reason for setting significant limits on how legitimate collections calls can be made. Today’s most popular communication technologies—mobile phones, text messaging, email and social media—did not exist when the FDCPA was enacted in 1977. There has been considerable uncertainty regarding how the FDCPA applies, if at all, to these modern technologies, with courts frequently issuing inconsistent decisions. This legal uncertainty has increased risk and costs for both industry and consumers. The need for bright-line rules addressing today’s communication technologies is amplified further because consumers and debt collectors increasingly prefer communicating with each other using these modern means, as they can provide greater efficiency, convenience and privacy.

The Proposed Rule seeks to address this uncertainty while protecting consumer privacy. Among other things, it would set specific limits on the number of calls debt collectors may place to consumers each week; clarify how debt collectors may communicate using modern technologies; and require debt collectors to provide additional information to consumers to help them identify debts and respond to collection attempts. The proposed changes include the following:

  • Call Frequency Limits—Subject to certain exceptions, the Proposed Rule would establish a bright-line rule regarding call frequency. The Proposed Rule prohibits a debt collector from placing a telephone call to a person (1) more than seven times within a seven-day period or (2) within seven days after engaging in a telephone conversation with the person. The proposed limits would apply on a per-debt, rather than per-consumer, basis. Thus, a debt collector who is attempting to collect two debts from the same consumer could, for example, place up to 14 calls to that consumer in one week. Further, the frequency limits would apply to any person (subject to certain exceptions), not only to the alleged debtor. Calls placed to the wrong number would not count toward the frequency limit. A debt collector who exceeds the frequency limits would per se violate the FDCPA’s prohibitions on repeated or continuous telephone calls with intent to annoy, abuse or harass, while a debt collector who stays within the frequency limits would per se comply with those provisions. Email, text messages or other electronic communications would not be subject to the proposed limits. Compliance with the CFPB rules, however, would not insulate companies from TCPA liability.

Among other issues, the CFPB requests comments on the proposed frequency limits and the measurement of calls on a per-week and per-debt basis. The CFPB encourages commenters who believe a higher or lower call limit is appropriate “to provide data supporting any recommended numbers, such as data regarding the frequency of calls that debt collectors currently make and how that frequency relates to the time needed to establish right-party contact and payments received from consumers.”

  • Option to Opt Out—The proposal would require a debt collector to include—in emails, text messages and other electronic communications—a “clear and conspicuous” option for the consumer to opt out of such future communications. The CFPB requests comment on whether to include a non-exclusive list of words or phrases that express an opt-out instruction.
  • Communication Media Restrictions—The proposed rules would allow a consumer to restrict the means a debt collector may use to communicate by designating a particular medium—such as a specific telephone number or email address—as one that cannot be used for debt collection communications.
  • Time and Place Restrictions—The Proposed Rule clarifies that calls to mobile phones and other electronic communications, such as texts and emails, are subject to the FDCPA’s prohibition on communicating at unusual and inconvenient times and places.
  • Use of Workplace Email—Subject to certain exceptions, the proposal would prohibit a debt collector from contacting a consumer using an email address that the debt collector knows or should know is provided by the consumer’s employer.
  • Social Media Platforms—The Proposed Rule would prohibit debt collectors from contacting consumers through social media platforms except through a private messaging function.
  • Limited-Content Message—The proposal would define a “Limited-Content Message” that a debt collector could send by voicemail or text. The Limited-Content Message would not be considered a “communication” and, therefore, would not constitute a prohibited third-party disclosure if disclosed to someone other than the debtor.

The CFPB believes that the proposed call frequency limits, along with the other proposed changes, will benefit both consumers and industry. As to calling limits, “By establishing a clear standard for call frequency,” the CFPB states, “the proposed provision would make it easier for debt collectors to know what calling patterns are permitted and avoid the costs of litigation and threats of litigation.” But the Proposed Rule recognizes that the proposal could also impose significant costs on collectors:

First, it would mean that debt collectors must track the frequency of outbound telephone calls, which would require many debt collectors to bear one-time costs to update their systems and train staff, and which would create ongoing costs for some debt collectors. Second, for some debt collectors, the proposed provision would require a reduction in the frequency with which they place telephone calls to consumers, which could make it harder to reach consumers and delay or reduce collections revenue.

While some larger collection agencies may already have these systems in place, the Proposed Rule acknowledges that “smaller debt collectors and collection law firms are less likely to have existing systems that track or limit calling frequency, and may therefore face larger costs to establish systems to do so.”

Because of the FCC’s call blocking efforts, the costs to debt collectors may soon, however, be even greater—with many of the collection calls permitted by the CFPB’s proposed changes potentially never reaching consumers. Though not required to offer the call blocking services under the FCC’s draft order, voice providers have been encouraged by the FCC to begin offering them immediately and for free. The default call blocking service would be based on “reasonable analytics” designed to identify illegal or unwanted calls. The FCC lists various indicia of unwanted calls, such as calls based on large bursts of calls in a short time frame, low average call duration, low call completion ratios, and invalid numbers placing a large volume of calls, among others. These analytics thus could sweep in legitimate collection calls, failing to distinguish them from illegal scam calls promoting tax relief or cruise lines. The draft order provides no mechanism for callers to challenge the blocking of legitimate calls, or that would inform consumers which calls have been blocked. The draft order would also allow voice providers to block all calls, on an opt-in basis, except those that the consumer specifies, such as calls from persons on the consumer’s contact lists. The FCC is slated to consider this order at its June 6, 2019, open meeting and interested parties have until May 30 to propose changes.

The CFPB’s efforts to revamp the FDCPA are significant and will have an industrywide impact. But these efforts to promote reasonable and beneficial communications between consumers and debt collectors may be largely mooted by the FCC’s pending call blocking order. Therefore, parties who find themselves at the intersection of these seemingly conflicting developments should act quickly to promote agency coordination.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
Contact
more
less

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
- hide

JD Supra Privacy Policy

Updated: May 25, 2018:

JD Supra is a legal publishing service that connects experts and their content with broader audiences of professionals, journalists and associations.

This Privacy Policy describes how JD Supra, LLC ("JD Supra" or "we," "us," or "our") collects, uses and shares personal data collected from visitors to our website (located at www.jdsupra.com) (our "Website") who view only publicly-available content as well as subscribers to our services (such as our email digests or author tools)(our "Services"). By using our Website and registering for one of our Services, you are agreeing to the terms of this Privacy Policy.

Please note that if you subscribe to one of our Services, you can make choices about how we collect, use and share your information through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard (available if you are logged into your JD Supra account).

Collection of Information

Registration Information. When you register with JD Supra for our Website and Services, either as an author or as a subscriber, you will be asked to provide identifying information to create your JD Supra account ("Registration Data"), such as your:

  • Email
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Company Name
  • Company Industry
  • Title
  • Country

Other Information: We also collect other information you may voluntarily provide. This may include content you provide for publication. We may also receive your communications with others through our Website and Services (such as contacting an author through our Website) or communications directly with us (such as through email, feedback or other forms or social media). If you are a subscribed user, we will also collect your user preferences, such as the types of articles you would like to read.

Information from third parties (such as, from your employer or LinkedIn): We may also receive information about you from third party sources. For example, your employer may provide your information to us, such as in connection with an article submitted by your employer for publication. If you choose to use LinkedIn to subscribe to our Website and Services, we also collect information related to your LinkedIn account and profile.

Your interactions with our Website and Services: As is true of most websites, we gather certain information automatically. This information includes IP addresses, browser type, Internet service provider (ISP), referring/exit pages, operating system, date/time stamp and clickstream data. We use this information to analyze trends, to administer the Website and our Services, to improve the content and performance of our Website and Services, and to track users' movements around the site. We may also link this automatically-collected data to personal information, for example, to inform authors about who has read their articles. Some of this data is collected through information sent by your web browser. We also use cookies and other tracking technologies to collect this information. To learn more about cookies and other tracking technologies that JD Supra may use on our Website and Services please see our "Cookies Guide" page.

How do we use this information?

We use the information and data we collect principally in order to provide our Website and Services. More specifically, we may use your personal information to:

  • Operate our Website and Services and publish content;
  • Distribute content to you in accordance with your preferences as well as to provide other notifications to you (for example, updates about our policies and terms);
  • Measure readership and usage of the Website and Services;
  • Communicate with you regarding your questions and requests;
  • Authenticate users and to provide for the safety and security of our Website and Services;
  • Conduct research and similar activities to improve our Website and Services; and
  • Comply with our legal and regulatory responsibilities and to enforce our rights.

How is your information shared?

  • Content and other public information (such as an author profile) is shared on our Website and Services, including via email digests and social media feeds, and is accessible to the general public.
  • If you choose to use our Website and Services to communicate directly with a company or individual, such communication may be shared accordingly.
  • Readership information is provided to publishing law firms and authors of content to give them insight into their readership and to help them to improve their content.
  • Our Website may offer you the opportunity to share information through our Website, such as through Facebook's "Like" or Twitter's "Tweet" button. We offer this functionality to help generate interest in our Website and content and to permit you to recommend content to your contacts. You should be aware that sharing through such functionality may result in information being collected by the applicable social media network and possibly being made publicly available (for example, through a search engine). Any such information collection would be subject to such third party social media network's privacy policy.
  • Your information may also be shared to parties who support our business, such as professional advisors as well as web-hosting providers, analytics providers and other information technology providers.
  • Any court, governmental authority, law enforcement agency or other third party where we believe disclosure is necessary to comply with a legal or regulatory obligation, or otherwise to protect our rights, the rights of any third party or individuals' personal safety, or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or safety issues.
  • To our affiliated entities and in connection with the sale, assignment or other transfer of our company or our business.

How We Protect Your Information

JD Supra takes reasonable and appropriate precautions to insure that user information is protected from loss, misuse and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration and destruction. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. You should keep in mind that no Internet transmission is ever 100% secure or error-free. Where you use log-in credentials (usernames, passwords) on our Website, please remember that it is your responsibility to safeguard them. If you believe that your log-in credentials have been compromised, please contact us at privacy@jdsupra.com.

Children's Information

Our Website and Services are not directed at children under the age of 16 and we do not knowingly collect personal information from children under the age of 16 through our Website and/or Services. If you have reason to believe that a child under the age of 16 has provided personal information to us, please contact us, and we will endeavor to delete that information from our databases.

Links to Other Websites

Our Website and Services may contain links to other websites. The operators of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using our Website or Services and click a link to another site, you will leave our Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We are not responsible for the data collection and use practices of such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of our Website and Services and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Information for EU and Swiss Residents

JD Supra's principal place of business is in the United States. By subscribing to our website, you expressly consent to your information being processed in the United States.

  • Our Legal Basis for Processing: Generally, we rely on our legitimate interests in order to process your personal information. For example, we rely on this legal ground if we use your personal information to manage your Registration Data and administer our relationship with you; to deliver our Website and Services; understand and improve our Website and Services; report reader analytics to our authors; to personalize your experience on our Website and Services; and where necessary to protect or defend our or another's rights or property, or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security, safety or privacy issues. Please see Article 6(1)(f) of the E.U. General Data Protection Regulation ("GDPR") In addition, there may be other situations where other grounds for processing may exist, such as where processing is a result of legal requirements (GDPR Article 6(1)(c)) or for reasons of public interest (GDPR Article 6(1)(e)). Please see the "Your Rights" section of this Privacy Policy immediately below for more information about how you may request that we limit or refrain from processing your personal information.
  • Your Rights
    • Right of Access/Portability: You can ask to review details about the information we hold about you and how that information has been used and disclosed. Note that we may request to verify your identification before fulfilling your request. You can also request that your personal information is provided to you in a commonly used electronic format so that you can share it with other organizations.
    • Right to Correct Information: You may ask that we make corrections to any information we hold, if you believe such correction to be necessary.
    • Right to Restrict Our Processing or Erasure of Information: You also have the right in certain circumstances to ask us to restrict processing of your personal information or to erase your personal information. Where you have consented to our use of your personal information, you can withdraw your consent at any time.

You can make a request to exercise any of these rights by emailing us at privacy@jdsupra.com or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

You can also manage your profile and subscriptions through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard.

We will make all practical efforts to respect your wishes. There may be times, however, where we are not able to fulfill your request, for example, if applicable law prohibits our compliance. Please note that JD Supra does not use "automatic decision making" or "profiling" as those terms are defined in the GDPR.

  • Timeframe for retaining your personal information: We will retain your personal information in a form that identifies you only for as long as it serves the purpose(s) for which it was initially collected as stated in this Privacy Policy, or subsequently authorized. We may continue processing your personal information for longer periods, but only for the time and to the extent such processing reasonably serves the purposes of archiving in the public interest, journalism, literature and art, scientific or historical research and statistical analysis, and subject to the protection of this Privacy Policy. For example, if you are an author, your personal information may continue to be published in connection with your article indefinitely. When we have no ongoing legitimate business need to process your personal information, we will either delete or anonymize it, or, if this is not possible (for example, because your personal information has been stored in backup archives), then we will securely store your personal information and isolate it from any further processing until deletion is possible.
  • Onward Transfer to Third Parties: As noted in the "How We Share Your Data" Section above, JD Supra may share your information with third parties. When JD Supra discloses your personal information to third parties, we have ensured that such third parties have either certified under the EU-U.S. or Swiss Privacy Shield Framework and will process all personal data received from EU member states/Switzerland in reliance on the applicable Privacy Shield Framework or that they have been subjected to strict contractual provisions in their contract with us to guarantee an adequate level of data protection for your data.

California Privacy Rights

Pursuant to Section 1798.83 of the California Civil Code, our customers who are California residents have the right to request certain information regarding our disclosure of personal information to third parties for their direct marketing purposes.

You can make a request for this information by emailing us at privacy@jdsupra.com or by writing to us at:

Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

Some browsers have incorporated a Do Not Track (DNT) feature. These features, when turned on, send a signal that you prefer that the website you are visiting not collect and use data regarding your online searching and browsing activities. As there is not yet a common understanding on how to interpret the DNT signal, we currently do not respond to DNT signals on our site.

Access/Correct/Update/Delete Personal Information

For non-EU/Swiss residents, if you would like to know what personal information we have about you, you can send an e-mail to privacy@jdsupra.com. We will be in contact with you (by mail or otherwise) to verify your identity and provide you the information you request. We will respond within 30 days to your request for access to your personal information. In some cases, we may not be able to remove your personal information, in which case we will let you know if we are unable to do so and why. If you would like to correct or update your personal information, you can manage your profile and subscriptions through our Privacy Center under the "My Account" dashboard. If you would like to delete your account or remove your information from our Website and Services, send an e-mail to privacy@jdsupra.com.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Privacy Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our Privacy Policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use our Website and Services following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, the practices of this site, your dealings with our Website or Services, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: privacy@jdsupra.com.

JD Supra Cookie Guide

As with many websites, JD Supra's website (located at www.jdsupra.com) (our "Website") and our services (such as our email article digests)(our "Services") use a standard technology called a "cookie" and other similar technologies (such as, pixels and web beacons), which are small data files that are transferred to your computer when you use our Website and Services. These technologies automatically identify your browser whenever you interact with our Website and Services.

How We Use Cookies and Other Tracking Technologies

We use cookies and other tracking technologies to:

  1. Improve the user experience on our Website and Services;
  2. Store the authorization token that users receive when they login to the private areas of our Website. This token is specific to a user's login session and requires a valid username and password to obtain. It is required to access the user's profile information, subscriptions, and analytics;
  3. Track anonymous site usage; and
  4. Permit connectivity with social media networks to permit content sharing.

There are different types of cookies and other technologies used our Website, notably:

  • "Session cookies" - These cookies only last as long as your online session, and disappear from your computer or device when you close your browser (like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Safari).
  • "Persistent cookies" - These cookies stay on your computer or device after your browser has been closed and last for a time specified in the cookie. We use persistent cookies when we need to know who you are for more than one browsing session. For example, we use them to remember your preferences for the next time you visit.
  • "Web Beacons/Pixels" - Some of our web pages and emails may also contain small electronic images known as web beacons, clear GIFs or single-pixel GIFs. These images are placed on a web page or email and typically work in conjunction with cookies to collect data. We use these images to identify our users and user behavior, such as counting the number of users who have visited a web page or acted upon one of our email digests.

JD Supra Cookies. We place our own cookies on your computer to track certain information about you while you are using our Website and Services. For example, we place a session cookie on your computer each time you visit our Website. We use these cookies to allow you to log-in to your subscriber account. In addition, through these cookies we are able to collect information about how you use the Website, including what browser you may be using, your IP address, and the URL address you came from upon visiting our Website and the URL you next visit (even if those URLs are not on our Website). We also utilize email web beacons to monitor whether our emails are being delivered and read. We also use these tools to help deliver reader analytics to our authors to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

Analytics/Performance Cookies. JD Supra also uses the following analytic tools to help us analyze the performance of our Website and Services as well as how visitors use our Website and Services:

  • HubSpot - For more information about HubSpot cookies, please visit legal.hubspot.com/privacy-policy.
  • New Relic - For more information on New Relic cookies, please visit www.newrelic.com/privacy.
  • Google Analytics - For more information on Google Analytics cookies, visit www.google.com/policies. To opt-out of being tracked by Google Analytics across all websites visit http://tools.google.com/dlpage/gaoptout. This will allow you to download and install a Google Analytics cookie-free web browser.

Facebook, Twitter and other Social Network Cookies. Our content pages allow you to share content appearing on our Website and Services to your social media accounts through the "Like," "Tweet," or similar buttons displayed on such pages. To accomplish this Service, we embed code that such third party social networks provide and that we do not control. These buttons know that you are logged in to your social network account and therefore such social networks could also know that you are viewing the JD Supra Website.

Controlling and Deleting Cookies

If you would like to change how a browser uses cookies, including blocking or deleting cookies from the JD Supra Website and Services you can do so by changing the settings in your web browser. To control cookies, most browsers allow you to either accept or reject all cookies, only accept certain types of cookies, or prompt you every time a site wishes to save a cookie. It's also easy to delete cookies that are already saved on your device by a browser.

The processes for controlling and deleting cookies vary depending on which browser you use. To find out how to do so with a particular browser, you can use your browser's "Help" function or alternatively, you can visit http://www.aboutcookies.org which explains, step-by-step, how to control and delete cookies in most browsers.

Updates to This Policy

We may update this cookie policy and our Privacy Policy from time-to-time, particularly as technology changes. You can always check this page for the latest version. We may also notify you of changes to our privacy policy by email.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about how we use cookies and other tracking technologies, please contact us at: privacy@jdsupra.com.

- hide

This website uses cookies to improve user experience, track anonymous site usage, store authorization tokens and permit sharing on social media networks. By continuing to browse this website you accept the use of cookies. Click here to read more about how we use cookies.