So, the debt collectors want some updating of their own to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. After all, why not? Who says consumer protection has to be just for consumers? The debt collectors are asking for access to consumers emails, cell phones and to use auto-dialers. After all, don't consumer's prefer this? My word, don't we all get enough robo-calls already on our cell phones? A robo-call system would seem to violate Section 806(5)'s prohibition on causing a telephone to ring repeatedly in any event. With the coming political season, though, perhaps the debt collectors are right that we all better get used to robo-messages on our cell phones anyways.
ACA International, the trade union for collection agencies, posted a Blueprint for Modernizing Debt Collection on its website. The Blueprint does advocate that debt collectors be permitted to call consumer cell phones (despite the additional charges imposed by some carriers), text and email consumers and even leave pre-recorded messages on cell phones. The Blueprint expressly advocates that debt collectors be permitted to communicate by any method of communication available. How about a consumer's facebook page? Linked-In? What about email accounts that are accessible by a consumer's employer? Of course, there is more there in the Blueprint that troubles me, but this area is full of difficulty for protecting consumers.
Surely, I am skeptical about allowing debt collectors unfettered access to the digital mediums available for use by consumers. The risk and cost to consumers would surely increase, with little exposure to debt collectors who violate the law (currently up to $1000 in most cases). While I am sure that the debt collectors that the New York Times spoke with are genuinely the nicest of people, I had the experience last year of having one of the not so nice debt collectors call me erroneously about a medical bill that had long been paid. Of course, the hospital apologized for the mistake, and wasn't sure how the information even was referred to debt collector. Of course, the lack of documentation that persists the industry at present becomes the first issue to tackle before erroneous robo calls and auto-mated emails flood our accounts. Can I opt-out?