The legislation will be in effect for 90 days starting Sept. 21, upon approval by the mayor, and replace emergency legislation that sought to extend debt collection communication requirements past the time set in Washington, D.C.’s state of emergency.
The Washington, D.C., City Council unanimously approved bill 24-347, “Protecting Consumers from Unjust Debt Collection Practices Emergency Amendment Act of 2021,” on Aug. 3 with amendments related to communication with consumers and documentation of debts. It will take effect Sept. 21, 2021 to align with the end of debt collection restrictions established under a COVID-19 public emergency in Washington, D.C.
The legislation, introduced by City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Attorney General Karl Racine, was first approved by the full city council July 13, and the version approved Aug. 3 replaces that draft, which was considered emergency legislation.
The legislation seeks 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 end in late September.
Washington, D.C.’s executive order and public health emergency were lifted on Saturday, July 24, but the order states restrictions on debt collection communications will continue for 60 days, ACA International previously reported. The emergency legislation sought to continue the debt collection communication restrictions for an additional 90 days.
The legislation approved Aug. 3 replaces that emergency legislation.
Some amendments to the legislation approved Aug. 3, according to the city council’s memo, include:
- 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.
- 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. The amendment strikes the following language from the original legislation: If the debt arises from a credit care, 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, according to the city council’s memo.
- Requiring debt collectors 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.
- If the consumer is an individual, the court may award an additional penalty in an amount not less than $500
per violationand not to exceed $4,000 per violation.This amendment corrects a technical error by replacing “shall” with “may” and removes the per violation language as it is inconsistent with current law.
- Delay the effective date of the legislation to Sept. 21, 2021.
There may be additional amendments included in the final version of the bill.
The legislation was sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser for approval, and she is expected to sign it. Once signed by the mayor, the bill will be in effect for 90 days starting Sept. 21, 2021.
The Mid-Atlantic Collectors Association continues to work closely with industry trade groups to amend the temporary legislation and helped secure the amendments finalized during the Aug. 3 meeting.