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Consumer Groups Criticize New Federal Debt Collection Rules

Statistics show that Missourians made more than 10,500 complaints about violations of debt-collection laws in 2016. (Dodgerton Skillhause/Morguefile)
Statistics show that Missourians made more than 10,500 complaints about violations of debt-collection laws in 2016. (Dodgerton Skillhause/Morguefile)
May 9, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Trump administration has just released proposed new rules for debt collection, but consumer groups say they would do very little to stop the onslaught of collection calls, emails and text messages that plague many Missouri households.

The new rules would limit the number of phone calls debt collectors could make to seven per week per debt.

However, Joanna Darcus, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, maintains seven calls a week is too many, especially for people who are behind on multiple debts.

"We had proposed that collectors would be limited to having one conversation per week with consumers and up to three attempted calls per collector rather than per debt or account,” she states. “So we need a rule that would actually stop phone harassment, and this just is not it."

Right now, there are no limits on the number of calls debt collectors can make.

The proposed rules also would require collectors who speak with the consumer to wait at least a week before calling again. The proposal would not limit the number of text messages or emails a debt collector could send but would require that emails have an unsubscribe function.

Public comment will be open for the next 90 days at Regulations.gov.

This proposal would allow consumers to opt out of those forms of communication. But Darcus says consumers would be better off with an opt-in system where collectors have to get a consumer's permission before sending texts and emails.

"Instead of protecting consumers, it creates carve-outs and exceptions that benefit debt collectors and cedes consent and the power of consumers to protect themselves from unwanted phone calls, text messages and emails," she states.

Statistics from the National Consumer Law Center show that the problem disproportionately affects communities of color in the Show Me State.

An estimated 31% of consumers in predominantly white areas of Missouri have a debt in collection, versus 65% in mostly black neighborhoods.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MO