U.S. debt collectors have a new tool at their disposal: social media.
Under financial regulations that went into effect Tuesday, debt collection agencies can now contact people via text or direct messages on social media. The rule was added to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a 44-year-old piece of legislation that controls how debt collectors can communicate with borrowers. According to the Washington Post, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced the change in autumn 2020, citing rapid developments in technology and transforming methods of communication.
“Debt collectors and consumers have been trapped in a time warp,” CFPB director Kathleen Kraninger wrote in a blog post. “They have been required to communicate with each other under standards Congress enacted in 1977. Until now. Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is issuing a final rule that provides clear consumer rights and limitations for debt collectors on using modern technologies to communicate with each other. … No matter the reason a consumer has a debt in collection, we want to make sure there are clear rules of the road for debt collectors to follow the law and alongside that, swift action against those who flout the law.”
The CFPB has laid out limitations to the new rules. According to the bureau’s website, if a debt collector chooses to contact a person through social media, they must do so with a private message. They must also identify themselves as a collector and give debtors the option to opt out of further communication on social media platforms.
“The Bureau was granted the authority to write rules on debt collection practices and the changes will provide better protection for consumers, clearer operating procedures for debt collectors intent on following the law, and easier identification of the bad actors we will take action against,” Kraninger continued. “We are finally leaving 1977 behind and developing a debt collection system that works for consumers and industry in the modern world.”