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Update: NYC DCA Extends Enforcement of Foreign Language Services Rules to Oct. 1


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The DCA extension applies to the existing no-action period for the rules. The DCA has also issued the annual report required for debt collectors subject to the rules to complete starting Sept. 1. Editor’s note: This article is available for members only.

8/10/2020 9:00

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has updated its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to extend the delayed enforcement of the Foreign Language Services Rules until Oct. 1, 2020.

The foreign language services rules took effect on June 27, but DCA staff has now committed to no-action period through Oct. 1, 2020, effectively delaying DCA’s enforcement of the new rules.

To this end, the updated FAQs state: “Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has extended the enforcement grace period to October 1, 2020. DCA will not issue any new rule violations before October 1, 2020.”

The DCA committed to this no-action period in the course of discussions with ACA International’s state advocacy team and partner organizations, including Receivables Management Association International, New York State Collectors Association, National Creditors Bar Association and New York State Creditors Bar Association.

The DCA issued the FAQs “to help debt collectors comply with the new rules” and it intends to “to modify the new rules to reflect answers and interpretations in [the FAQs].”

As of Sept. 1, 2020, a debt collection agency must maintain the annual report on its foreign language services in its records and produce it to DCA upon request. The report and rules and other resources are available on the NYC DCA licenses website.

The FAQs were also in response to a June 22 request from ACA and its partner organizations to provide more detail about its new foreign language services rules. The FAQs clarify the scope and intent of the foreign language services rules.

In particular, ACA and its partners specifically requested that the DCA respond to 22 questions posed by the organizations. The DCA included only 12 responses, including who bears responsibility for maintaining records of consumers’ language preference; how often debt collectors must request a consumer’s language preference; and whether the new rules apply to creditors attempting to collect debts that are not in default.

According to the DCA, the new rules require debt collectors to:

  • Inform consumers—in any initial collection notice and on any public-facing websites maintained by the collector—of the availability of any language access services provided by the collector and of a translation and description of commonly used debt collection terms in a consumer’s preferred language on the department’s website;
  • Request, record, and retain, to the extent reasonably possible, a record of the language preference of each consumer from whom the collector attempts to collect a debt, and;
  • Maintain a report identifying, by language, the number of consumer accounts on which an employee of the collector attempted to collect a debt in a language other than English, and the number of employees that attempted to collect on such accounts.

Additionally, the new rules prohibit debt collectors from:

  • Providing false, inaccurate, or incomplete translations of any communication to a consumer in the course of attempting to collect a debt, and;
  • Misrepresenting or omitting a consumer’s language preference when returning, selling, or referring for litigation any consumer account, where the debt collector is aware of such preference.

Read more about the DCA’s stakeholders meeting with ACA and its partner organizations in coverage from ACA here.

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