The public hearing will allow for comment on legislation focused on debt collection restrictions and consumer protections. Registration to testify is due Friday, Nov. 26.
11/24/2021 09:00 AM
The Washington, D.C., City Council will meet next week to consider a permanent bill that could finalize amendments related to communication with consumers and the documentation of debts.
The “Protecting Consumers from Unjust Debt Collection Practices Amendment Act of 2021” (Bill 24-357) is open for public comment at the council’s Monday, Nov. 29, public hearing. Those who wish to testify need to visit the city council chairman’s website by 5 p.m. EST, Friday, Nov. 26.
The stated purpose of Bill 24-357 is “to ensure that all consumer debt falls under the consumer protection law; to prohibit debt collectors from engaging in deceptive behavior and harassment, including threatening to disclose consumer debt information and limiting the number of phone calls a debt collector can make to a consumer in any given week; to implement specific requirements for a debt collector when initiating a cause of action against a consumer for a consumer debt; to allow for awarding of damages and other fees to a consumer when a debt collector violates the law; to prohibit the imprisonment or jailing of any consumer for failure to pay consumer debt; and to codify consumer protections related to debt collection during a public health emergency declared by the mayor.”
For background, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a temporary version of the bill in September, ACA International previously reported.
The legislation sought to modernize the district’s debt collection law—written in 1971—and establish temporary updates to debt collection laws before restrictions on debt collection communications ended in late September.
Bill 24-357 seeks to finalize and replace temporary legislation that was enacted in response to consumers’ hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic and allow extra consumer protections if a public health emergency is declared by the mayor. The temporary legislation currently in place would expire on June 9, 2022, if not replaced by a permanent bill before that date.
Debt collectors may contact consumers about their accounts and collect payment but note that call limitations and new documentation requirements are in place while consideration of Bill 24-357 continues.
Some of the current requirements in Washington, D.C., include:
- A debt collector cannot call a consumer more than three days in a seven-day period. However, calls initiated by the consumer or made by a debt collector at the request of a consumer do not count toward the call limit of three calls in any seven-day period.
- Itemized notices of the amount claimed to be owed by the consumer are required. However, if the debt arises from a credit card, the itemized accounting shall be measured from the charge-off balance and shall include copies of the charge-off statement and the most recent monthly statement recording a purchase transaction, last payment, or balance transfer. This amendment strikes the following language from the original legislation: If the debt arises from a credit card, the account shall include the last 24 periodic statements required by the Truth in Lending Act, 15. U.S.C. Section 1637(b), that evidence the transactions, purchases, fees and charges that comprise the debt. Striking this language ensures that consumers receive relevant information regarding their debt obligation, including any fees, etc., without receiving a large volume of statements or paperwork. The additional language is necessary for credit card debt due to limitations on what information banks can feasibly provide to debt collectors.
- Debt collectors are required to send a notice to consumers stating information on their account, such as the name of the original creditor as well as the name of the current creditor or owner of the debt, is available—rather than having the debt collector send this information unsolicited after an initial communication.
ACA encourages its members to register to testify at the public hearing by visiting the website for the legislation’s sponsor, City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, before the deadline Friday, Nov. 26.
Bill 24-257 will need to be reviewed in a second public hearing and is subject to the legislative review process in Washington, D.C.
“ACA and the Mid-Atlantic Collectors Association continue to work with a large industry coalition for sensible amendments to the pending legislation, but until a permanent bill is passed, or the temporary legislation expires, what is out there right now is the law of the land in D.C,” said ACA’s Vice President of State and Government Affairs Andrew Madden.
The Mid-Atlantic Collectors Association has continued to work closely with industry trade groups on the amendments in the legislation.
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