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Washington, D.C., Officials Approve Emergency Debt Collection Legislation Proposals


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The Washington, D.C., City Council and Attorney General Karl Racine are focused on modernizing short-term and permanent laws on debt collection as regulations passed during the COVID-19 public health emergency are set to expire.

7/13/2021 10:30

Emergency debt collection legislation introduced in Washington, D.C., on Monday was approved by the full City Council on Tuesday afternoon. The legislation introduced by City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Attorney General Karl Racine seeks to modernize the district’s debt collection law — written in 1971 — and establish temporary updates to debt collection laws before the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

“As the public health emergency nears its end, the debt collection protections put in place will expire,” Mendelson said in a news release. “Meanwhile, we’ve realized that our 50-year-old consumer protection law hasn’t kept pace with technology.”

The state of emergency in Washington, D.C., will not be renewed, according to media reports and will expire on July 26.

According to the news release, the Protecting Consumers from Unjust Debt Collection Practices Emergency and Temporary Acts would update the Washington, D.C., debt collection laws by expanding protections to cover medical debt and credit card debt and prohibit “excessive communications that constitute harassment,” including making more than three phone calls in a seven-day period.

“The law would also be broadened to clearly apply to modern forms of communication, like text message and email. This legislation would protect consumers from harassment across all forms of communication,” according to the news release.

The legislation also clarifies that it applies to debt buyers and would require debt buyers to provide itemized statements and account numbers for debts owed to prevent attempts to collect on inaccurate or expired debts.

Now that the city council approved the emergency legislation during Tuesday’s legislative meeting, it is eligible to be sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser for approval.    

The emergency legislation will take effect upon approval by the mayor and will be in effect for no more than 90 days.

During the legislative meeting, Mendelson said the temporary legislation, which would implement an identical bill to the emergency legislation for a longer period of time. will have a hearing later this fall. If approved by the city council, the temporary legislation would also need the mayor’s approval and would expire 225 days after that date.

The attorney general’s office also reports Mendelson and Racine “plan to introduce legislation in the near future with permanent updates to modernize Washington, D.C.’s debt collection laws in the long-term, in addition to this legislation with urgently needed temporary fixes before the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.”

ACA will continue to provide updates on this developing story.

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