Debt collectors to use email, texts under proposed new federal rules

Keywords Banking & Finance / Debt

Debt collectors will be able to start contacting borrowers via text and email under new regulations proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The rules released Tuesday are an update to debt-collection regulations enacted in the 1970s, which never took into account changes in technology, like the use of cellphones, email or the internet.

Under the new rules, third-party debt collectors will be able to call a delinquent borrower up to seven times a week, leaving voicemails if necessary. They will have to leave borrowers alone for at least a week after they reach them by phone.

There's no cap on the number of texts or emails a collector could send, but the rules would require an ability for a consumer to "opt-out" of texts and emails from bill collectors.

Consumer groups had hoped for a cap on texts and emails, as well as a lower cap for telephone calls per week.

Roughly 25 million Americans have debts in collections, according to the Federal Reserve. Debt collectors are ranked consistently among the most complained-about issues with the CFPB as well as with the Federal Trade Commission. More than 80,000 complaints about debt collectors were filed with the CFPB by consumers last year.

The CFPB will take in public comment for 90 days and finalize the rules likely later this year or early next year.

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