If you owe money, it just got harder to hide from the debt collectors.
The Consumer Financial Protections Bureau (CPFB) has recently ruled that debt collections agencies can now use social media outlet like Facebook and Twitter to try to recover outstanding debt. Further, email and text dunning notices are also fair game. The CPFB says it is simply modernizing the debt collection process to allow it to use more modern means of connecting to those who owe money.
According to an article in The Register, the CPFB was simple updating old rules:
The CFPB claims that the new rules were the result of “a deliberative, thoughtful process spanning more than seven years and reflects engagement with consumer advocates, debt collectors, and other stakeholders.” It updates rules written 40 years ago, long before the advent of modern technology and smart phones.
But in the lengthy report and explanation on the new rules, it rejected significant public comment that social media should be completely off bounds for debt collectors, using the phrase “the Bureau declines to prohibit private social media communications and attempts to communicate” repeatedly in response to concerns.
I think it is important to point out that debt collection agencies cannot post to someone’s public site. In other words, the world will not be able to see Facebook timelines with “Where’s the money” posted next to the kitten videos. Rather the collection agencies will have to coerce the debtor to “friend” them or “follow” them (or however people connect on social media) on specific social media outlets and then, and only then, can they start sending them direct messages (DMs) asking for the money. The friending option isn’t required for email or text messages.
The ruling does allow some opportunity to consumers who feel that they are being harassed be debt collectors through the channels that are already available. It notes that the “general prohibition on harassing, oppressive, or abusive conduct” applies to these new ways of contacting consumers just as it has for phone calls and mail debt collection notices.
As you might imagine the consumer advocacy organizations are not at all happy about this ruling and they have already started to make their displeasure known to the CPFB. As an article in Slash Gear reports:
Many people and consumer protection agencies are against the new regulations. Consumer Reports created a petition this week, aiming to stop abusive debt collection. The petition warns that the collectors could harass people even if they don’t owe money.
At first glance, this seems like a truly draconian move by the CPFB. After thinking about it, though, if a person chooses not to friend or follow or BFF a debt collection agency, on its face, where’s the harm? But, on the other hand, why even open up this door for the collections agencies? Rules are meant to be broken, right?
Overview by Peter Reville, Director, Primary Research Services at Mercator Advisory Group