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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
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September 19, 2019


Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a bipartisan coalition of 28 attorneys general, filed comments with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) urging the agency to revise its proposed debt collection rule and place the interests of consumers above those of debt collectors.

“Despite the prominence of its mission to protect consumers in its name, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has continued to introduce policies that prioritize the interests of businesses and debt collection agencies – at the expense of the consumers it is supposed to protect,” Raoul said. “In the absence of true consumer protection by the CFPB, I will continue to stand with my counterparts across the country to put our residents and families first.”

In 1977, Congress enacted the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) after finding “abundant evidence of the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices by many debt collectors… [that] contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.” Importantly, Congress noted that “[e]xisting laws and procedures for redressing these injuries are inadequate to protect consumers.” Despite decades of public and private enforcement of the FDCPA, widespread deception and abuse have continued in the $11.5 billion debt collection industry.

Raoul and the coalition commend certain aspects of the CFPB’s proposed rule. For instance, they note in their comments that the rule, proposed in May 2019, would prohibit so-called “passive debt collection” — a particularly coercive practice in which debt collectors report debts to credit reporting agencies before even attempting to collect on them. The proposed rule also expressly acknowledges that it does not preempt state laws that are more protective of consumers than the FDCPA.

Raoul and the coalition argue that the proposed rule falls short by allowing debt collectors to:

  • Place up to seven calls per week for each debt a consumer has. According to the CFPB’s own research, almost 75 percent of consumers with one debt in collection have multiple debts in collection, meaning a consumer with five debts in collection could receive up to 35 calls per week.
  • Send a virtually unlimited number of electronic communications, including direct messages on social media platforms, without consumers’ consent. Because electronic communications, such as texts and emails, are essentially cost free for debt collectors, these companies would have no incentive to minimize these communications.
  • Infringe upon a consumer’s right to privacy. When contacting consumers, debt collectors could speak with any third party who happens to answer the consumer’s phone (such as a roommate) and leave what the CFPB refers to as a “limited content message.” While this message will purportedly not convey information regarding a debt, the CFPB ignores the likelihood that people will become familiar with the generic and formulaic language and recognize these messages for what they are.
  • Take advantage of consumers who fundamentally do not understand their rights or obligations when it comes to time-barred or “zombie” debts, as the CFPB’s own surveys attest. First, the proposed rule will allow debt collectors to collect debts even if they cannot file suit due to the expiration of a statute of limitations. In fact, in some jurisdictions, by paying any portion of the debt a consumer restarts the statute of limitations, essentially giving the collector back the right to sue. Second, the proposed rule would water down consumer protections because it would only allow a debt collector to sue or threaten to sue if they “know or should know” that the applicable statute of limitations has expired; whereas, the current “strict liability” standard means collectors violate the law if they sue on expired debt. Whether they knew or had reason to know is irrelevant.
  • More easily file baseless lawsuits on a massive scale. The proposed rule would specifically erode the FDCPA’s requirement that attorneys be meaningfully involved with debt collection litigation, which would overwhelm state courts with lawsuits that are based on form complaints.

Finally, a glaring omission of the proposed rule is that it does not cover first-party creditors. In the comments, Raoul and the coalition of attorneys general argue that there is no reason to treat those who originated a defaulted loan differently from third-party debt collectors. The CFPB has the statutory authority to extend the protections against unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices to all debt collectors, yet declined to do so.

Joining Raoul in submitting the letter are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.


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