COVID-19: Consumers Need You Now More Than Ever


04/11/2020 09:00 AM

A letter from ACA International Board President Roger Weiss to Members:

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Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust our nation, industry and families into uncharted territory. At ACA International, we recognize the challenges you face each day as you work to protect your business and employees amid a rapidly changing environment. Certain states have improperly reacted to this crisis, with restrictions that rather than allow us to continue to help consumers through their financial challenges, cut off communications. Many threats to our ability to operate loom at the federal level as well.

ACA International members are well-trained, compassionate professionals who understand –better than anyone – how to communicate with consumers, especially those who are facing financial challenges. During this time, it is particularly important that as an industry, we continue to display true leadership as we always have, through our hardship programs, and by continuing to treat consumers with the utmost empathy, dignity and respect. We play a vital role in helping consumers resolve financial issues so that they can maintain and restore access to affordable credit and services, and be in control of their financial future.

Consumers need you now more than ever!

ACA members are uniquely qualified to help consumers throughout this crisis and have played an important role supporting consumers during other difficult times such as natural disasters. ACA members are trained to access “hardship” programs to assist consumers in making arrangements that best suit their individual financial situation during an emergency. I applaud your work developing and implementing these programs during this challenging time for the country.
 
Considering the extraordinary circumstances facing consumers and collectors, many members have shared their experiences practicing these items and more, and we indeed suggest following these recommendations throughout the pandemic and in its economic aftermath:

  1. When possible, utilize communication channels convenient to consumers’ preferred methods of communication, including use of any authorized modern technology in accordance with applicable consumer protection laws and regulations. This may include telephone IVR, chat functions, email, consumer web portals and text messaging.
  2. Remain respectful, compassionate, and empathetic, and work to provide the best possible resolutions for consumers. This could include providing temporary hardship repayment plans that may provide a variety of options for deferring payments or determining longer-term payment plans tailored to individual consumer situations where income has been interrupted for any reason. This is especially true for those with COVID-19, or those on the front lines battling this epidemic. Be a resource to creditors in determining appropriate payment plan modifications.
  3. Collection professionals should continue serving as leaders in their communities by offering crisis management, financial literacy educational materials, and other community assistance when possible.
  4. Collection professionals should reassure consumers that they are a resource to help in any capacity that is available and appropriate.
  5. Stay abreast of changes to FCRA requirements by jurisdiction, and consider delays to credit reporting for delinquencies occurring as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
  6. Work with consumers and creditors to exhaust all options, and to develop payment plans that best fit a consumer’s situation before moving forward with litigation.
  7. Honor crisis-related requests for forbearance of existing legal remedies during the national or state-specific emergency.

As an ACA member, you are trained to provide solutions through problem solving that help create accommodations to assuage consumers during difficult times. In this regard, it’s great to reaffirm our commitment to the “Collectors Pledge,” which all members sign:
 
I believe every person has worth as an individual.
I believe every person should be treated with dignity and respect.
I will make it my responsibility to help consumers find ways to pay their just debts.
I commit to honoring this pledge.
 
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, ACA International is available to assist you in understanding the shifting landscape and determining the best path forward. This is a tremendous opportunity for the accounts receivable management industry to prove its value to consumers, lawmakers, creditors and others. We are here to support you through this and will continue to work diligently by providing important education, advocacy and compliance resources.
 
Please visit our website at www.acainternational.org and click the “COVID-19: ACA Updates” button for the latest information.

Roger Weiss
President
ACA International