Compliance Blog

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Debt Collection Rule and Call Limits—A Second Look

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) debt collection rule issued in 2020, which amended Regulation F, is now in effect. The NAFCU compliance team has blogged about it a couple of times. In 2019 we blogged about the call limits in the proposed rule. After the first part of the rule was finalized in October 2020, the team blogged about some general principles running through the first final rule and what constitutes a communication and a limited-content message under the rule. And in December 2020, the compliance team blogged about the second part of the debt collection rule finalized by the CFPB, including the treatment of deceased consumers, the requirements related to time-barred debt and passive collections, and the requirements related to validation notices. Today’s blog is going to return to the call limits in section 1006.14 of Regulation F.

Section 806 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from “engag[ing] in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.” Section 1006.14 of Regulation F provides debt collectors with guidance about what may constitute conduct that violates section 806 of the FDCPA. Section 1006.14(b)(1) sets forth the general rule that “[i]n connection with the collection of a debt, a debt collector must not place telephone calls or engage any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.”

The call limits described in sections 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A) and (B) provide a presumption of compliance that a debt collector does not violate the general prohibition in section 1006.14(b)(1). This means that a debt collector is presumed not to have violated the general prohibition if the debt collector has not called a person in connection with the collection of a debt: (1) more than seven times in a period of seven consecutive days, or (2) within seven days after speaking on the phone with someone about a debt.

But what if a debt collector wants or needs to make additional calls beyond what are permitted by the limits in sections 1006.14(b)(2)(i)(A) and (B)? Section 1006.14(b)(3) explains that there are three types of calls that do not count toward those limits. A call that is never connected does not count toward the limit. The commentary suggests that a busy signal or a message that a number is no longer in service is an unconnected call, but a call that is dropped after it is picked up counts toward the limits. Calls to the following persons also do not count toward the limits:

  • “The consumer’s attorney;”
  • “A consumer reporting agency, if otherwise permitted by law;”
  • “The creditor;”
  • “The creditor’s attorney; or”
  • “The debt collector’s attorney.”

The third type of call that does not count toward the frequency limits are those that are made within seven consecutive days after receiving a person’s prior consent to be called. The commentary provides a couple of examples of how this exclusion works. What is clear from these examples is that the exact words used by a person to provide prior consent and the timing of calls can really affect whether the prior consent exclusion is applicable. Debt collectors, therefore, may need to be mindful of what the called person is actually consenting to and when the consent is obtained in order to document the applicability of this particular exclusion.

As explained in the compliance team’s earlier blogs about the rule, the debt collection rule generally applies to third-party debt collectors rather than credit unions collecting their own debts. Credit unions, however, may need to understand how Regulation F works to satisfy its third-party monitoring obligations if it uses third-party debt collectors or if state law requires creditors to comply with the FDCPA.

About the Author

David Park, NCCO, Senior Regulatory Compliance Counsel, NAFCU

David joined NAFCU in September 2018.  As part of the Regulatory Compliance Team, he provides daily compliance assistance to member credit unions on a variety of topics. 
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