Closed Rule

Consumer Debt Collection Practices (ANPRM)


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) might propose new federal rules on how creditors and debt collectors can act to get consumers to pay overdue credit card, medical, student loan, auto or other loans. This decision matters to you if you

  • had an experience with debt collection (good or bad)
  • counsel consumers with overdue debts
  • have a business where you do your own account collection or
  • work in the debt collection industry

Here, you can learn what CFPB is thinking and what it needs to know. You can share information and experiences and discuss ideas with others. At the end of the discussion, CFPB will get a detailed summary and your input will help it decide what to do next. (This phase is for gathering information and brainstorming. The next phase would be where CFPB comes up with specific proposals and asks people to comment again before it decides whether to adopt those proposals as new regulations.)

Consumers and business both have a stake in effective, responsible debt collection practices. Don't be a bystander. Help CFPB make the right decisions about new consumer debt collection regulations. Share what you know and encourage family, friends and coworkers to do the same.

Discussion Questions about phones & mobile phones in debt collection - 213

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1|Inconvenient times - 15

Agency Proposal

Debt collectors can't call consumers at inconvenient times (FDCPA § 805(a)(1)). The statute says that calling before 8 AM or after 9 PM is inconvenient. With traditional landline phones, the collector can usually use the area code to figure out the consumer’s time zone. But with mobile phones, consumers often keep their number when they move so the area code may not match where they live.

  • Does technology exist to determine whether a phone number is a landline or a mobile phone? If so, should collectors be required to use this technology?
  • Should the collector be allowed to rely on information the consumer gave when he/she applied for credit (for example, if a number is identified as "home" vs. "mobile"/"cell"?)
  • Should collectors assume that the consumer is in the time zone of his/her mailing address on file?
  • If the collector has area code and mailing address information about the consumer that don’t give the same time zone, which should be used? Should the collector not make calls before 8 AM or after 9 PM in either time zone? Should mailing address take priority?

Consumers can tell collectors what times are inconvenient for them. To discuss whether collectors should have to pass this info along to the debt owner or later collector, see Making sure debt collectors & buyers have info about the debt—Info about consumer preferences and status.

See what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Unusual or Inconvenient Times.


Commenting is now closed.

I don't know if technology allows collectors to distinguish land lines from cell phones. It is fair for collectors to use info provided on the application for credit. Collectors should be allowed to assume that the mailing address of record is an accurate indication of the debtor's time zone. Creditors periodically request updates of contact info in some cases; this would be a good idea for all to do.
Mailing address should take priority for determining time zone unless the debtor advises otherwise. As mentioned previously, people with cell phones may move from one locale to another without changing their area code.

I have received calls from debt collectors at 9:30 pm, and I consider this rude. I have also had robocalls early in the morning that woke me up. I am 69 yrs old, and retired, and I sleep late. My health is not good at the moment, so sometimes I have had a bad night - please, please don't wake me up with a robocall.

Thank you for joining the discussion, lamizzee. The main goal of Regulation Room is to help every person air his or her views in the most effective way, to help CFPB better understand problems with debt collection. If you are having problems with debt collectors, you can contact CFPB's complaint center.

FDCPA 805(a)(1) is routinely violated by at least two large banks--Citicards and Wells Fargo. Both have called before 9 AM and after 8 PM. I live in the Central Time Zone and no matter where these banks are based, they ignore that and call early and late. The mailing address should take priority and it should not matter whether the collector is based in Portland, Oregon or Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, if it's 8 AM in Chicago, they should not be calling.

Why are these questions putting the onus, once again, one the consumer? It is the collectors who have harassed in the name of collecting a debt.
It is pretty easy to distinguish landline from cellphone -- google the number, that tells you. But creditors use recorded calling, that should be stopped. If they have a well-trained person, that person ought to be able to determine the time zone the consumer lives in. I agree with the previous comment. Creditors should assume the current mailing address is the correct one. How difficult is it to go from there in assessing the times that are appropriate to make calls?

Why is there a discrepancy between what you say the statute says - 9am - and what time I find referenced everywhere else - 8am? And what about weekend restrictions? This past weekend I was woken by a call from Midland Debt Collection at 8:10am on a Sunday morning on my cell phone.

I think the 9-8 is a typo. I have seen other typos on this site too, and they provide to FDCPA link that shows it is 8-9, so no big deal. On this topic though, I would like to see the 8-9 changed to 9-8. 8 is too early and 9 is too late at night to get phone calls.

I also don't think that they should be able to call on Sundays. I understand that weekends are probably a good time to call people, but I think that weekend calling should be restricted to less hours (like maybe noon - 5pm) and only on Saturdays. No Sunday phone calls.

Just to add to my comment: These so-called "Blue Laws" that prohibit cars lots being opened on Sundays and liquor being sold on Sundays, requiring the debt collection industry from closing down on Sundays (no calls, no letters, no contact) would not create any undo burden as many other regulated industries (car, liquor, gambling, etc) already abide to such "blue laws" and they operate just fine and make plenty of profits. The debt collection industry should be required to close down completely on Sundays.

Welcome to RegulationRoom Hoosier, thank you for letting us know about the error. Do you think the times collectors can call should be changed for weekend days, and if so, what times would be more appropriate? Should CFPB make a blanket rule, or would it be better for consumers to tell collectors what times are inconvenient?

Technology does not allow debtors or alleged debtors to distinguish land lines from cellphones of debt collectors; whether private or federal. There appears to be a double standard between the debtor and collector. I have received calls after business hours and sometimes even on a Sunday from a mortgage servicer, whom I will not disclose. This particular servicer has even left an anonymous type of flyer (one that can be hung on a doorknob) with instructions to call the specific servicer's customer service phone number; without disclosing the name of the servicer, although I was already familiar with the phone number. I would classify this as mail fraud because it bypassed the mail system. The same scenario with the service of process regarding my old school loan. The service of process bypassed the mail system These are both issues that should be resolved collectively by and among the FCC, FTC and DOJ (not all inclusive). A debt collector can call the debtor from a phone number outside of the collector's company so it won't be included in the company's phone log. If the debtor attempts to return the phone call, the number is either inoperable or not able to receive incoming calls. Collectors may even call a debtor in order to attempt them to give personal information about lowering the interest rate on their credit card (even if the debtor doesn't have a credit card). It is obvious or apparent that there may be a credit card floating around in the debtor's name unknowingly. These are all scenarios I have experienced. We haven't gotten to the subject of sharing a debtor's information among the debtor's financial institution and the financial institution's correspondent institutions and investment advisor affiliates and other business combinations of the debtor (public utilities companies, mortgage servicers, insurance companies, pension fund mgrs, etc...)

Welcome to RegulationRoom, sbwaddell. The CFPB is interested in learning more about what information you think collectors should provide when they contact consumers and whether consumers should be able to limit how and when collectors contact them. If you are interested in sharing more of your ideas on these topics, please see the “Voicemail and answering machine messages” and “Limiting collector communications” topics directly below.

I have received robo-calls as earlier as 8am to a landline number for a debt not even mine. If they are not respecting times already, when will they?

Additionally, as loans are set up on varied systems and they fall in to collections for calls to be made a break-out of phone types should be part of the "Solutions" . Example Home designated area, work designated area and Mobile-cell as well. Three separate 'Solutions" therefore giving a increased likelyhood of calls to be within what the statue requires.

Just like Cable companies may expect their customers to give them a four hour window for service calls, consumers should be allowed to choose a time frame they prefer to be called within. If they never respond within that time frame, then the debt collector could try a different time frame.

2|Inconvenient places - 7

Agency Proposal

Federal law (FDCPA § 805(a)(1)) also protects consumers from contacts at unusual or inconvenient places. Should a federal rule tell collectors they can’t contact consumers at:

  1. Hospitals, hospices, emergency rooms, etc.

  2. Places of worship

  3. Funeral homes, cemeteries
  4. Courts, jails, prisons, etc.

  5. Combat zones or qualified hazardous duty posting
  6. daycare centers
  7. (any other place?)

How would a collector know (or when should it know) that the consumer is at one of these places?

See what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Unusual or Inconvenient Places.


Commenting is now closed.

In theory this seems like a reasonable policy, but how can collectors know where a debtor is if they are calling his or her cell phone? Knowingly calling third parties should be prohibited across the board. It is no one else's business what goes on between creditors and their debtors. Calls to a person's boss or family can cause further financial and domestic problems, neither of which will help with getting the debt paid.

If a collector is calling a cell phone without permission, it's most likely a TCPA violation (google to see many cases- debt collector TCPA, there's a lot of court action on it)

I agree with Bonzarel. The obvious solution is to ban debt collection calls to cell phones, period. Not everybody has the same options on their mobile plans, and some have strict time/call/texting limits and/or restrictions.

I agree with all of the proposed inconvenient places--especially number 1, 2, and 5. If debtor is in the hospital for themselves or for a loved one, that is the last place someone wants to deal with a bill collector. The same goes with # 2 and #5. I would also add, places (cities) that have recently experienced or are experiencing a natural disaster at the time of the call/mailing. Debtors who just lost their house, for example, due to a natural disaster should not be bother by a debt collector calling them or mailing them about a 5 year old cell phone debt they forgot to pay. There should be a reasonable exemption time (like maybe 45 days) that prohibits a debt collector from calling or mailing a debtor during/after a natural disaster.

I would also add, any places/cities that have been in a state of emergency or any other emergency like an attack or otherwise dangerous/hostile environment like Newtown, Boston, etc. for an reasonable exemption time (like maybe 45 days).

That is an interesting suggestion, stopwithspoofedcallerID, thanks. How would a collector know (or when should it know) that the consumer is at a place in a state of emergency? How far away from the attack does the dangerous/hostile environment reach?

They could at least start with address and area code of debtor’s phone number. And I would say that the reach would be at least as far as the local commuting area. So for a city like Boston, there's Boston, Chelsea, and the other surrounding areas. Now, if a debtor from NY traveled to Boston for the marathon, for example, that would be much harder for a collector to have a reasonable expectation of a debtor’s whereabouts. But once a debtor has identified his/herself within the reach of the commuting area of the place of emergency, then perhaps the exemption period should kick in. In a place like Newtown, or Colorado, if a collector has a reasonable belief that a debtor may have been an employee of the school or movie theater (if they can’t identify the debtor being in the local commuting area by address/phone number), then they should also stop collection for the exemption period. So, place of employment, address, phone number, and debtors self-identifying their whereabouts, could be ways that debt collectors could/should have reason to believe the location of a debtor.

3|Calls at the workplace - 27

Agency Proposal

Collectors can't call the consumer’s workplace if the collector should know that the “employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication.” (FDCPA § 805(a)(3)). Do employers typically have policies about debt collection calls, as opposed to personal calls in general? Are employer policies about these things usually the same for all employees?

Can collectors generally figure out who the consumer’s employer is? If the collector has dealt with other consumers who work for a particular employer (for example, a national chain), the collector might already know what the employer’s policy is. Suppose a new federal rule said that once the collector finds out an employer’s policies, it has to respect those policies from then on, for all consumers who work for this employer. Would the benefits to consumers outweigh the costs to collectors of having to keep track of this information?

Would a better approach be a simple rule that calls at the consumer’s workplace are always inconvenient?

See what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Place of Employment Communications and Inconvenient Places.


Commenting is now closed.

This should really stop. no one can talk at work and should not.

I think calls at work should be allowed .

Welcome to Regulation Room, R N. Can you tell us more about when collectors should be able to call consumers at work, and why? Knowing more about your reasons or personal experiences will help CFPB know what things it should keep in mind if it decides to make a rule about how, when, and where collectors can call consumers.

I don't think limiting the time to call a person at work is an option. Everyone works at different times.
Some people moves, change cell phone numbers , so call them at work is sometimes the only option. It's hard to know what place "prefers" no personal calls , and a list could be an option, but most people work for smaller company's and the lists will cater to the large company's. Most people have information about where they work somewhere on the web.
I don't see a problem if a debt collector calls a customer at work if they don't know prior of any inconvenience.
Would a customer prefer to be called at work, or have a message left with a relative for them ?

Obviously you are a collector. [remainder of comment was removed by moderator for violating site terms of use]

Lori, we welcome comments about CFPB's proposal on RegulationRoom. However, offensive comments directed at other users are not acceptable. I understand from your other comments that you've had difficult experiences with collectors, but we must ask that all commenters remain civil and respectful.

Calling a debtor at work is counter-intuitive; if collectors are continuously calling someone at work, other employees may report it to the debtor's supervisor. Most companies have established rules about receiving or making personal calls from company or cell phones during an employee's working hours. If a collector or creditor calls a debtor on his/her cell phone and is informed that the debtor is at work, the call should be terminated. No calls to employers should be allowed as this jeopardizes the debtor's job. How does that help in debt collection? It doesn't.

Unscrupulous debt collectors use this tactic trying to force people into agreeing to repay a debt. The threat of debt collection calls at work is a powerful incentive to repay a debt.

Calling someone's work is clearly and without dispute intended to embarrass and annoy. It is never acceptable.

The entire point of collectors calling debtors at work is to intimidate and cause fear of loss of employment to the debtor and the practice should be outlawed unless the debtor opts in to receive calls there. Its well known that companies like Sallie Mae will continue to call debtors at work even after being told not to.

Many states have a judgement law where a consumer with over a certain amount of judgements may be terminated from employment. Having a collector call at work just seems to be another way to break down a consumer and put them at a disadvantage. A friend has mentioned to me receiving collection calls at work for one of his employees where the collector identified himself as "Officer" My friend told the collector never to call again and that it's illegal to impersonate law enforcement. Too many other stories that went to court for FDCPA violations of collector harassment at work even when the employer has told the collector not to call there again.

Creditors should be entitled to require consumers to provide them with a contact address and phone number and to provide updates while debts are outstanding. If consumers do not do so, it should be fair for creditors (and collectors) to skip-trace or to reach them at other numbers. Collectors should not be allowed to make calls to work until they have made multiple attempts to contact a consumer at home.

Calls at a place of employment should only be made after multiple attempts to reach a consumer at home.

I dont mind the calls to work. My problem is the frequency. The reality is that I owe the bill and I know it. But I dont think they should call my job unless I dont call them back. Tect me and call me first and give me a few days. Then call my job but not every day.

People get fired for personal calls at work. I worked at a place where employee phone call was recorded and randomly monitored due to the sensitivity of our work. And every now and then an employee would get caught making/taking a personal phone call and would be fired with no questions asked. Work is not the place for personal business.

I once had a debt collector send collection letters to my work address. They had my home address. I think this should also be prohibited. Who gets personal mail sent to them at work?

Welcome to RegulationRoom, hollygogo13, and thank you for commenting. CFPB is wondering if the validation notice, sent to consumers when the debt has been sold, should include information about the consumers right not to have the collector contact the consumer at inconvenient times or at his/her workplace if the employer prohibits such communications. To learn more or join in this discussion, please see the topic page, The "validation notice" sent to consumers.

I have seen the "moderator" in the caller ID forum ask if it would be okay to put the company's name on the caller ID because this could show to others around that the person has a debt and would then compromise the consumer's privacy and security. Yet, there is a discussion to allow these calls at a consumer's work? many people do not work in an office, so a message would have to be left with a secretary. This is letting someone else know of a debt who should not be privy to that information. The ONLY reason these companies have to calling someone at work is to publicly shame the person into paying. It is the modern version of putting someone in stockades and throwing fruit at them, or a modern scarlet letter. If there is another phone number on an application, that is the one that needs to be used. If there is an address on the application, that is what needs to be used. Calls to someone's work are off limits PERIOD! There is not way for the collection agency or the government regulation body to GUARANTEE that no one besides the consumer gets the information when someone's work is called.

Most companies have a strict "NO PERSONAL CALLS" policy; hence the act should include a clause that "...unless specifically allowed, in writing, by the debtor, a collector is barred from attempting to contact a debtor at his/her place of employment."

Calls at work are too instrusive. Most companies, like mine, do not allow personal calls. Not all people have M-F 9-5 office jobs. If you work in a warehouse, a production line or as a cashier, you cannot take calls and it can cause issues with a supervisor. As someone who has answered a company phone, you can tell a caller that the employee cannot take calls or that they don't work there, but that caller will repeatedly call back. My position on this is simple, if the creditor does not call to confirm employment before credit is issued, they should not call after the debt is in collection. If they confirm employment then they could also inquire about the communication policy. Personally, I am in a position of constant public contact with no available phone with me and it would be hard to immpossible to have a phone conversation without leaving my work area which would cause issues with management for my job.

Hi S.K., welcome to RegulationRoom. Thank you for your comment. If a rule said that once a collector finds out a company's policies, it must always respect those policies, would the benefits to consumers outweigh the costs to collectors of keeping track of this information?

When a debt collection company (Bayview) took over servicing of my mortgage, I began receiving phone calls at work and on my cell phone about my mortgage payments even thought they were not late. This included robo-calls. I was told this was 'standard' and to ignore these phone calls, but I really got angry and filed a BBB complaint in the state of one office. I was never late with one payment, and our mortgage was not in debt collection. Bayview may be a debt collector, but they need to keep those services separate from their mortgage services. Calling people at work, robo-calls, and harassing them when they do not have delinquent debts should be against the law.

Hello Liz E, thank you for joining RegulationRoom and sharing your experience. Because you are getting these calls even though you do not have a debt in collection, you may want to file a complaint with CFPB.Their sample letters to debt collectors may also be helpful.
Even though your debt is not in collection, do you think any of CFPB's suggestions about work places calls, or repetitive calls and cell phone calls in the sections below, could be helpful to you or other consumers?

Thank you, I will consider that. Yes, I do think your restrictions on workplace calls per week would be helpful, but I do not see any information requiring details on the content of Robo-Calls. For example, the calls I referred to earlier included robo-calls telling me that I had "messages" waiting for me in my Bayview Account, and to access these messages, I needed to call a special phone number. Well, this was a bunch of baloney - it was just a recording wanting to know where I had sent my mortgage payment (I had not set up an electronic deposit yet, like they wanted, so they assumed I was skipping a payment). I believe those robo-calls were fraudulent and misleading, particularly since I was never late on any payments, and I never had any "message" waiting for me. Just a robotic collection message. I received three of these messages and they are still saved in my cell phone voice mail.

The problem is enforcement. When collectors are notified to stop calling the consumer's workplace, they refuse to obey the law that requires them to stop. Reporting violations to the regulators is futile, because nothing is ever done by way of enforcement and the collectors know this. Put teeth into enforcement.

Calls to the workplace should not be permitted at all. Harassing the consumer at his her/workplace can come to the attention of the employer and get the consumer fired or limit advancement. The collector then does not get paid because of the collector's own egregious conduct.

As Director I can clearly in good faith state that as we service our potential losses and my Team make collection calls contact is generally made at work place as well. Let me also state that many of the call backs are made from Members at work as well. It all depends on the employer and the work conditions surrounding the consumer.

4|Voicemail and answering machine messages - 28

Agency Proposal

Telephone calls are still the most common way collectors contact consumers. But new technologies have created some new problems.

To make sure that consumers realize what a collection call is about, collectors must identify themselves as trying to collect a debt and warn the consumer that any information he/she gives will be used for that purpose (the “mini-Miranda” warning) (FDCPA §§ 806(6), 807(11)). To protect the consumer’s privacy, the collector generally can’t communicate with other people about the consumer’s debt. (See Talking to other people about the consumer's debt). Balancing truthful information with protecting privacy isn’t a problem if the consumer answers the collector’s phone call. But what if the collector gets an answering machine or voicemail?

To avoid a privacy violation if someone else listened to the message, many collectors would say something like, “This is John Smith calling for Nancy Jones about an important business matter. Please call me back at 555-5555.” But then the federal courts said that this kind of message was illegal because it didn’t give truthful information about being a collection call.

One way to resolve this problem (called the “Foti dilemma” after the name of the first federal court case) is for collectors not to leave messages. But this may not be the best answer for either consumers or collectors if it makes it harder for consumers to find out their debts are in collection before something negative is reported to a consumer reporting agency or a lawsuit is filed against them.

If there is a new federal rule about leaving messages, what should it be? Here are possibilities:

  1. The message identifies the consumer by name but doesn’t say anything about debt collection. (This would basically be what some creditors were doing before the Foti case.)
  2. The message identifies the consumer by name and asks that he/she go to a particular website where he/she could read the mini-Miranda warning.
  3. The message identifies the consumer by name, but only when the answering machine or voicemail greeting gives the first and last name of the consumer and no one else.
  4. The message states it is for the consumer by name, and asks that anyone who isn't the consumer (or his/her spouse) either stop listening or delete the message.
  5. The message indicates that the call is from a debt collector but doesn't identify the consumer by name.
  6. The collector leaves a message that doesn't say anything about debt collection, but only after the consumer consents to receive messages without the mini-Miranda warning.
  7. Collectors can’t leave messages.

Should collectors be allowed to ask consumers for consent to leave messages without the mini-Miranda warning? If so, should consent have to be in writing? Should the consent cover only leaving recorded messages, or all communications from the collector?

See what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Recorded Messages.


Commenting is now closed.

Possibility #1 seems like the best way to achieve the FDCPA goals of not harassing or abusing the debtor AND not disclosing the existence of a debt to 3rd parties. Once the collector has verified that they are speaking to the debtor, they can (and should) give the mini-miranda disclosure.

While possibility # 5 (sometimes called a Zortman message) IS a workable solution to the FOTI dilemma and comes the closest to complying with the competing sections of FDCPA, it seems much more embarrassing to a debtor who's roommate/spouse/child etc. hears the message.

I also like the suggestion from #6 that the debtor can "opt out" of the mini-miranda warning in subsequent communications. In the real world, once a collector & debtor have spoken there is not much chance that the debtor does not know the purpose of subsequent communications or that the collector is calling to collect.

Option #2 seems like a good idea, but very few people will actually go to the website AND an eavesdropping 3rd party could go to the website and figure out that the call was regarding a debt.

As most Courts have stated, # 4 (FOTI message) is just rubbish. Furthermore, I would urge the CFPB to disregard almost any case or rationale that has come out of that circuit.

Ultimately, I just want CFPB to set forth SOME/ANY "safe harbor" provisions on these types of issues such that we can stop guessing how to be in compliance.

The idea of "private policing" has done nothing to actually change the way collectors behave. Instead, it has created a cottage industry for former slip-and-fall attorneys who can now extort collection agencies (or attorneys) who simply cannot afford to risk paying out $50,000 in atty fees if their "bona fide error" defense turns out to be insufficient. Essentially, a well-intentioned collector has no choice but to either pay these extortionists or risk bankruptcy.

These proposed rules are the first thing I've seen come out of FDCPA that might actually make a difference in the way that collections are handled. Therefore, I encourage CFPB to actually follow through with providing guidance to collectors instead of spending so much time, web space and effort teaching debtors how to sue collectors.

Debtors should be able to leave a message for a specific debtor, the name of their company and request a call-back at a specified number. When a consumer returns this type of call, the collector or debtor should be required to give them the mini-Miranda warning. There is no need for collectors to leave messages revealing the nature of their calls. The Health Information Privacy and Portability Act prohibits disclosure of protected information to unauthorized parties and the same should apply to debt collectors.

Most landlines and cell phones have caller ID technology ; if the number comes up showing a toll-free number or an unknown caller, many consumers will let such calls go to voice mail. Voice mail messages need to be discreet. No one needs their kids hearing messages from debt collectors. Anyone returning a call regarding a voice mail message should be informed by a live customer service rep of the mini Miranda warning. This should be done only after the person returning the call to the collector verifies his or her identity as the debtor.

"The message states it is for the consumer by name, and asks that anyone who isn't the consumer (or his/her spouse) either stop listening or delete the message."
Ok, so not the consumer, I don't want to keep deleting the same message. Where's the easy automated number at the very beginning stating if you're not this person and want your number removed from further calls, to please call this toll free removal line?

A simple request for a call back is the best. "Foti" messages serve no one. It's clear to everyone that the call is from a collector and 3rd parties are unnecessarily inconvenienced.

Oh my goodness why do they disclose theu are bill collectors on voicemails. That is insane. My mom heard one when I was playing my voice messages at home. They should only disclose through texts. Texts arent something that will be heard by others. That long message saying they are collectors and trying to colleft a debt is ridiculous!!

I don't like #2 because if they were to start telling consumers to a to a certain website, that opens the door for spammers/hackers to increase virus infections by simply doing the same thing. Just calling every phone number in the phone book and telling the consumer navigate to a certain website and then infect their computer.

Hi stopwithspoofedcallerID, thanks for your comment. It sounds like you do not like the idea of allowing collectors to leave messages asking consumers to go to a mini-Miranda warning website because it opens the door for spammers/hackers to do similar things. Couldn't hackers and spammers do this without the rule? Does the rule make this more likely somehow?

True, spammers/hackers could do this now. I meant more like, if this rule were implemented and became sort of a common identifier: like "Oh, I know what this call is about. Its a debt collector. A debt collector will always tell you to go to a website." Then i worry that spammers/hackers could take advantage of this common identifier and somehow infect computers when an debtor does visit whatever website is left in the message.

It would be a good idea to create a national database of collectors and assign them an ID number just like the IRS. Require them to state their name and ID number just like IRS employees do. This would allow debtors to easily identify an abusive collector or just call a debt collection agency and ask to speak to a specific employee. If they call and leave a voicemail they are required to state their ID number somewhere in the recording. It would be good for both debtors and collectors.

Thank you for your comment, brendandavis. What do others think of using a national database with ID numbers? Would this create additional costs for debt collectors?

Like most regulatory programs additional cost would be inevitable, it could be paid for by a yearly fee that collectors pay to be a licensed collector.

The national database and licensing would be a good idea if it were used effectively to weed out the bad collectors and put them (and their corporate officers) out of business permanently. Not those who get caught up in technical violations over mini-Mirandas, but the ones who knowingly commit serious violations of the FDCPA, FCRA, and TCPA. As Tfleeman noted in his very insightful comment above, the "private policing" we have now has not been effective in stopping the worst abuses.

As for the main topic of this page, I think it's far better for a collector to leave a voicemail (with clear identification of the caller and callee) than to call the same number 50 times without leaving a message. The rules should encourage this rather than frustrate it. So, I would favor option #1, with the mini-Miranda deferred until the collector is sure he is talking to the right person.

I think I do kind of like this idea. This designated database/website could also list Summary of Rights for state laws and Fed laws. Then this same website might also be able to be used as a way to report abusive behaviors (or link to the appropriate websites to do so), and other relevant information for consumers regarding consumer debt, credit, and credit reports, and other various useful information that is currently available but is spread across many agency websites. The website could be paid for and maintained by the debt collectors (sort of like how is paid for and maintained by the credit reporting agencies). It could be a way to help bring legitimacy to the debt collection industry by having a way to identify them to separate the legit companies from the bad ones while allowing collectors to operate effectively.

If a message is left, 3 things need to happen. 1) the debt collector needs to not block/spoof their caller id; 2) a call back phone number needs to be left in the message and it needs to match the phone number shown on the caller id; and 3) when the debtor calls the call back number, a recording needs to immediately state the mini miranda warning before a connection to a live representative is made.

Hi stopwithspoofcallerID, It seems that your main concern, when a message is left, is to prevent collectors from being able to block or spoof their called ID when contacting consumers. Are you also concerned with whether collectors should identify themselves in the actual message or does that create certain privacy issues customers may be concerned about?

Yes, I am also concerned with whether or not collectors should identify themselves in a message, or if they should be more general in identifying who they are in a voice message as to not invade the privacy of the debtor for whomever else may share the same answering machine or otherwise may over hear the message. So far, I have purposely remained neutral on this matter because I have yet to form an opinion. I can see both sides of the arguments. I think I lean more to wanting the collectors to be more discrete and general about who is calling, but I still am not sure. The big concern that is more concrete is definitely the phone number caller id, in that it should be the true number of the business and (if a message is left) should also be the call back number.

I am an experienced recipient of collection calls. As I have explained in another post here, I live in a fairly large metro area, and whenever anyone with my very common last name and first initial skips town without paying his/her bills, I'm the one who gets the calls from the debt collectors.
Here are some of my thoughts on these calls, and I have received dozens:

I know that a call about "an important business matter," is a call about a debt. I have received many of these kinds of calls.

Whenever a debt collector calls me and leaves a message without a name, it doesn't take me very long to figure out that the call is from a debt collector. If the debt collector calls and leaves a name, that debt collector is revealing to me, an unrelated third party, that the individual has a debt in collection. I consider this to be a violation of the spirit of the FDCPA if not the letter. Whenever a debt collector calls me, I am burdened with the knowledge that I now know the name of someone else who has a debt in collection.

I've gotten any number of the calls described in #4 telling me not to listen if I'm not the named individual. The big problem with that is that, one again, the name of a debtor is being revealed to me, and then there's the added dilemma of the fact that now my phone number has been programmed into a debt collector's robo dialer. When that happens, the calls continue to come. I always disobey the instructions and listen to the message. I then call the debt collector to report a case of mistaken identity. It's the only way to stop the calls.

In all the collection calls I have gotten over the years, I have received only one message with the "mini-Miranda" warning. When I called the debt collector to report another case of mistaken identity I was connected with an individual in a call center in India. After I told the woman she had the wrong person, I thanked her for the "mini-Miranda" and she hung up on me.

I don't have any answers, just lots of experience. I hope someone finds this information useful.

What should stop right away is the recorded message. I just causes too many problems. I got calls from a recorded message that said if this is so and so, please hang up. Well, if it is leaving that message on someone's voicemail, it's not going to hang up. They can call someone who now has the phone number of the person who had the debt -- and numbers are recycled that fast in growing areas like where I live -- and then before you know it someone is getting a dozen recorded calls for a debt that has nothing to do with them.
I also almost sued a debt collector over hundreds of calls placed right after one another to my home phone and at all hours. I paid my carrier for a phone extra that not just showed which numbers called but enabled me to block numbers. I was blocking this number for calling me at 10 pm and though that was it. But after looking over the bill which also included showing each number, I had almost 200 calls from that same number, which I googled and it was a debt collector, and it just was on auto dial.
That is an egregious abusive of the law as it stands now. and don't kid yourself if you don't think it doesn't still go on.
I printed out all the calls over a three day period and went to a lawyer who said you can sue for $1,000. Let me tell you, that isn't nearly enough. There should be civil penalities for doing such abusive, insane and twisted things like that. The calls were done some twice in the same minute. The first call I took and asked the man for his name and he hung up. I called back and of course -- as everyone will tell you, you don't get through. It's busy or it becomes a dropped call. So the catch-22 is you can't get in touch with the people to say stop the calls. I even wrote them, and I did send a copy of the file of calls, and then they finally stopped.
But the lack of doing squat for so long, the failure of this entire system to have any kind of concern for consumers and what they may be going through is what gives rise to such abuses. I can't say enough about this. I know this company told this mindless employee just put it on automatic call. Can you imagine if I had no blocker? This was a medical debt. What if I had a terminal illness? Do you think people ought to go through this?
I think these abuses have gone on and on for so very long, without anyone addressing them and I hardly think I am the only one with a horror story like this.
Number one: make it illegal for recorded calls. Period. End of story. And any debt collector who violates that ought to be slammed with a big fine. Hitting them in the pocketbook is the only way you will get these bad companies to do business according to the law.

Why can't we bring back the olden days? I have been a "victim" of debt collectors run amok for over 35 years. Back in the day, a debt was assigned to one collector who would pursue me relentlessly for a debt that belonged to someone else.
Nowadays with the robo-dialers the collection call is assigned to the "next available operator." Why not just go back to the days when only one collector was responsible for making the contact?

This is unreal. Reading your "if there is a new federal rule regarding messages..." It seems like this agency is trying very hard to make it easy to get around the court decision which is one of the few that protected consumers, and they also seem to try to protect the company that abuse the phone because what these people do is harassment. They know it, and they know how to do it. They've gotten away with it for so long because they answer to no one, you've put the onus on the consumer to have to sue a debt collector who violates the law. This is unreal.

Hi gmt512. To clarify, RegulationRoom is not the agency. Instead, RegulationRoom is a project designed and operated by the Cornell eRulemaking Initiative and hosted by the Legal Information Institute (see About for more information on the project.) CFPB is currently at a fact-finding stage and is looking to gather information about how it may want to structure new rules. CFPB is looking for comments on whether creating a new rule is a good idea and if so how that new rule should work.

We have no debt other than what is current on our credit cards, but for 10 or15 years we have been receiving robo calls for an Edward Flanigan. We've owned this number for 22 years and have never known an Edward Flanigan. We are on the do not call list. Robo calls by debt collectors need to be banned outright.

Thank you for joining the discussion on RegulationRoom, Nancy Kellog. If you are still having problems, you may want to contact CFPB's complaint center. CFPB wants to know more about consumers' experiences with debt collection, including robo-calls. You can share more details about your story and see what CFPB's questions and ideas are on this subject in the subtopic "Repetitive calls and robo-calls" below.

I do not have any debt. I was given a telephone number by Verizon that was previously owned by a person who had not paid her bills. Debt collectors have been calling me for 10 years now and many have been threatening and intimidating. One collector told me he had all my personal information and was going to ruin my life!!!

Thank you for sharing your story, Lynda Artusio. I'm sorry to hear about your bad experiences. If you are still having problems, you can contact CFPB's complaint center. CFPB wants to know more about consumers' experiences with debt collection, including abuse and harassment. You can see what CFPB is asking in the section on Unlawful collection practices, subtopic "Harassment or abuse."

Please consider robo-calls when developing rules for this section. See my comments about robo-callers leaving messages on cell phones under robo-calling.

I understand the need to protect privacy, but this is not the answer. The messages left for me on my cell phone could have been returned by anyone with access to the cell phone (family members, snoopy friends) and information on a supposedly late payment would be disclosed by the robo-caller.

Robo-calling does not have the consumer's privacy in mind.

Honest, respectful and open communication between consumers and collectors should be the goal. If there are too many roadblocks to making contact with a debtor, more consumers will find negative information on their credit reports and have more lawsuits filed against them. Rule number 1 strikes the right balance. If the consumer responds, the consumer will receive the mini-miranda disclosure and information about the debt. If the named person is not at the number, is it really so awful to call the collector and let them know? If calls contiue after that point from the same collector, then there should be penalties. Professional collectors do not want to waste time calling a wrong number.

5|Caller ID - 30

Agency Proposal

Caller ID technology can create the same legal dilemma as leaving a recorded message (See previous subtopic). If the collector’s name shows up in caller ID, someone besides the consumer might see it and realize this is a debt collection message. But if the collector blocks or changes its caller ID information, it may be failing to give truthful information about its identity (see FDCPA § 807(14)).

  • Current technology. Do most consumers now use telephone service providers that offer caller ID with name as well as phone number?
  • Collector practice. How are collectors actually using caller ID? Technology now lets collectors change how their information appears. For example, some collectors believe a consumer is more likely to answer a call with a local area code, and they may use a service that displays a local phone number. Or they may use a name that is different from their official company name. Or they may block anything from appearing as a caller ID.

What federal rules about caller ID would best balance truthful information with privacy concerns? Should collectors be prohibited from blocking or altering the telephone number or identification information shown in caller ID?

For the related topic of displaying the collector’s name as the sender of a text message, see Questions about email, texting and social media in debt collection.

See what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Caller Identification.


Commenting is now closed.

I love caller ID. Also use my call blocking on my phones with Verizon.

I think it should be illegal or miss leading for a agency to change its caller id.
You could easily look up a relatives number and use that. There should be a rule regarding a change in caller id.

Blocking caller ID information is disingenuous to say the least. Most consumers won't respond to blocked numbers or ID's anyway. Collectors should be required to identify themselves and to provide caller ID information that identifies them. Most people who cannot pay their bills are aware of the problem, so being reminded under false pretenses is more of an annoyance than a solution to the problem.

At least in Illinois there is a Caller ID spoofing law. Still get calls every day with false/unintelligible called ID listed and no message left.

If a collector is calling from a different number than the one they are displaying on Called ID, that should be not allowed. Does not allow the consumer to block those calls since the number displayed is not the one actually calling.

I don't think that we are discussing how to block a collector from calling you.
You shouldn't have to feel that you have to " block " a call . You should just answer and ask them not to call you.

"You should just answer and ask them not to call you."
see robocalling, picking up just lets them know this is the prime time to make future calls since you're home at this time. Account keeps changing hands, repeat.

"It takes time for us to update our do not call lists..."

I need a number to show. Stop blocking yhr number and stop using 800 numbers. To me 800 numbers belong to sales or solicitors. I want to know I have a debt in collections. So dont hide. Geesh!

Debt Collectors should be barred from "spoofing" their phone numbers.

I do NOT answer any calls that have "unknown caller" or "unknown" in the ID. If you can't show your name in the ID line, then something is not right with your company, or you have something to hide. Remember, YOU are calling ME, so in that sense, phone calls are an invasion of my privacy. I don't have any obligation to answer any calls that I don't want to. There should be a regulation that requires debt collection agencies to identify themselves when making phone calls.

Maybe not their name. But their phone number should show up on caller id. Their real phone number.

Thank you for sharing your story, lamizzee. Debt collectors must identify themselves when contacting consumers, but CFPB is concerned that if collectors let the name of the company show up in the caller ID, other people besides you might see that you have an overdue debt, when you don’t want them to know. CFPB don’t want consumers to feel exposed. Do you think that new rules on caller ID should make collectors identify themselves, even at the risk of other people besides you seeing it?

They will just continue to call. Not answering does not stop the constant calls. They need to be required to identify themselves accurately so the consumer has at least a fighting chance to speak with them. In my case I have no debts of my own but am constantly harassed for other people's debts because I have a fairly common last name. They just start calling everyone with the same last name as their actual debtor.

Collection Agency's' should be REQUIRED by law to show their phone number when calling a debtor. Most if not all come up "unknown". What are they trying to hide? If they are a legitimate company then they should have no problem showing their number. If I call them, and my number is blocked, I can't get thru until I unblock my number. If they truly are legitimate, they should want to do things fair and above board.

Agreed. And it should be their real phone number. So that when you miss their phone call and try to call them back, it should go to the real company. And not say something like "the call can not be completed as dialed." I mean, what is the point in that. Some debtors can't get to their phone before it goes to the answering machine and if the collectors don't leave a message, the debtor will try to call back. But then the call can't be completed when you try to call back. So, really what was the point of the call. Many debtors would just assume it was a scam call. Increasing Right Party Contacts should be the goal. And that goal can only be reached if the real phone number is showing up on calller id.

Thank you for your input. It sounds as though you would only require the real phone number. Would requiring the debt collector to either provide the phone number through the Caller ID or to leave it in a voicemail? It's not currently clear what debt collectors can and cannot leave in a voicemail message, and CFPB would like to hear any suggestions that you may have on that topic under the voicemail and answering machine messages subtopic

There are currently no "teeth" in the enforcement mechanism as well. Right now filing complaints with the regulators does absolutely nothing except get you into some database but nothing is every done about violations. Requiring accurate identification of the collector with a working call-back number should be the bare minimum. At least that way the consumer has a fighting chance of at least talking to them and trying to get erroneous calls stopped. Right now government enforcement is non-existent and completely worthless.

If I am paying for the minutes on my phone, which I do, then I should be able to chose who's call I do and do not want to answer. When it comes up 'unknown", how do I know it's a Collection Agency, a telemarketer trying to sell me vacation homes, cruse lines trying to sell me a cruse, someone wanting to offer me a better mortgage rate, ect... Every call I answer deducts time from my minutes and that is NOT fair to me. I now block ALL "unknown, withheld & private" calls. If they truly are legidimate and want to talk to me, press 1 to unblock, just like I have to.

A collector's toll-free number is the ideal number to display on Caller ID, since it allows the call to be returned from anywhere without incurring long-distance charges. It also lets the recipient know right away that it is not a personal call and is probably not from a local company. I'd much rather see an 800 number than a spoofed local number for a company that is really 1000 miles away (or in India). This spoofing is clearly a false and deceptive practice that is barred by the FDCPA, but still it occasionally happens.

It doesn't just "occasionally" happen. It happens all the time. Those of us with common names are sitting ducks for these scumbags. I am constantly harassed by collectors looking for someone else. Call blocking programs do not work out of area, so call-blocking is no protection whatever.

No matter how you slice this conversation, phone calls are the biggest abuse. You can have rules and do about the time, but they are ignored. Until you or the FTC creates rules that fine these people -- and not put the burden on the consumer to sue -- this abuse will go on. I have to laugh at these querstions. You have to be putting me on. The most abusive things debt collectors do are with their phones. They block their numbers still. They use various numbers they mislead their identities. THE PROBLEM is the onus is on the hapless consumer to get legal redress. Not good enough.You need to create fines and actually impose them. That will stop this phone abuse. They call at work, always wkill have some excuse. Oh, this was the only number we had. and call after hours. Well we are in California. Please. Be honest, this is an outrage what these companies have done, and nobody has minded the store on them. Never should the onus be on the consumer to get this to stop. You have to find a lawyer who thinks a whopping $1,000 is worth suing over. Please. You have rigged this system in favor of the sharks., and that is why these sleazy companies have proliferated and have grown more and more egregious in their actions.
What you need to do is 1) no more recorded calls. 2) call from one number and 3) as soon as someone says stop calling, STOP. if there is any call beyond that, they get fined.
Agreed, people will have to write a letter because none of these companies will admit they were told to stop calling. But they do receive the letters, which should go to a physical address and to a person, not just a vague company name.
Last, stop allowing these bad companies to change their names. They get in trouble, they change their names, and go on doing terrible things under another name.
Just look online at some of these companies and how many names they've gone through.
The reason this got so bad is nobody has been looking out for the consumer.

Agree. Laws are in place now, but there is no enforcement by the regulators.

It is mind-boggling that this has even been allowed to continue for so long. This should have been addressed years ago! Stop allowing the company to change names to continue poor practices. Stop allowing the companies to use hundreds of phone numbers to try to trick someone. Stop letting them block numbers so caller ID only shows "unknown" or even 000-0000. Stop putting the burden of stopping this entire industry on the consumer (who has no teeth or way to be sure the judgment is being enforced) THAT IS THE JOB OF CONSUMER PROTECTION! It's in your name! You are there to PROTECT the CONSUMER. Force these companies to properly identify themselves when asked! Debt collectors have been calling my cell phone for 5 years trying to collect a debt from someone I have never heard of. This random person put down my phone number as a contact on a loan, defaulted on that loan, and now i am the one being harassed because of a stranger! When called and they identify who they are looking for, i used to say that i did not know the person then try to ask for the name of the company, but they had already hung up on me and would then call again later. So then, after they ask for the person, I immediately ask for the name and address for the company. They would ask again for "name," I would ask again for the name and address for the company. They would ask again for "name," I would ask again for the name and address for the company. It becomes a shouting match, they say "I'll just call back later when you are in a more 'information giving' mood," and hang up on me. There was/is no recourse, protection, or help for people like me. The company won't give me their name and I don't have a phone number (because it is "unknown") to give to the regulating bodies to report harassing behavior. I have no way to stop these people from calling my cell phone! It is my phone! I pay the bill, not them! They should have no "RIGHT" as they put it to call a cell phone!

The use of false information, INCLUDING the name and/or number, in caller ID should be illegal. period.

it should be a fdcpa violation to spoof a debt collector's phone number on the caller ID. Either no number on the caller ID or a number linked back to the collection agency.

Welcome to RegulationRoom, Stuart Ing, and thank you for your comment. Federal law wants to make sure consumers know when a call is from a collector, but also protect consumers from the risk that third parties might accidentally find out that the consumer has debts in collection. A third party could see that the consumer is getting calls from a collection agency either through the phone number or company name on caller ID. How would you balance possible privacy concerns with making sure consumers know who is calling them?

just the phone number should show up on the called ID. The consumer can google the number and figure out if they want to talk or call back the number. More importantly, it gives attorneys the ability to make fdcpa claims against collection agencies since we know who is calling.

I was harassed for months by a collector who used robo-calls 5 and 6 times a day and blocked its caller ID, for what turned out to be five different debts, none of which were mine. Robo-calls were not answered; if I picked up, nobody was there, and no messages were ever left. The blocked caller ID was "1 Unavailable," which is designed to outfox call-blocking from the recipient's end, and makes it impossible to identify the caller using reverse number lookups and the like. One day I picked up and finally there was someone on the other end, so I was able to figure out who was calling, although they were very reluctant to say who they were. I then looked them up on the internet and got a phone number for them. I repeatedly stated I was not the person they were looking for, but they refused to stop calling. I finally got an attorney and after months of the attorney bickering with them, I did get a small money settlement. This was occurring when I was getting chemotherapy treatment for cancer and was very ill. My life was hell for months because of these practices. Collectors should be prohibited from concealing either their identity or their call-back numbers. This happened because I had moved and was assigned a new number that evidently had belonged to a number of individuals who had outstanding debts. I was afraid to change my number again because it would just usher in a new batch of collectors. There should also be much, much, much stiffer monetary penalties for violations. The guilty party in the above scenario was a national collection agency with huge annual revenues; the piddly amount I was eventually paid was to them a tiny fraction of one cent compared to their annual revenues. I just happen to be an attorney myself, and ran their name on Pacer--they had been sued over and over in state and federal court and had actually paid million dollar fines to state attorneys general--also just a small cost of doing business for them compared to their enormous annual revenues. We need much, much stiffer penalties. These people are cyber bullies with absolutely no scruples. At the very least they should be required to identify themselves on caller i.d. with a legitimate callback number, and robo-calls should be made illegal.

I left a long comment about one particular collector, but recently was harassed by yet another one who was trying to collect from someone else who was not me. Their caller ID was not a phone number; it was just the names of different states, but turned out to be the same company. These people are bottom-feeders with no scruples. Accurate caller ID should be required so the victim can at least identify the collector and have a call-back number for them. And monetary penalties should be much, much stiffer to discourage their outrageous, predatory and harassing practices. Harrassment is part of their business models. These people are scum and should be required at the very least to identify themselves accurately. Robo-calls and ID spoofing should be illegal with stiff fines.

Let's keep it as simple as possible. Based on 3rd party disclosure statue blocking the ID benifits the consumer. One never knows who is at the other end of the phone.

6|Repetitive calls and robo-calls - 72

Agency Proposal

A collector violates federal law (FDCPA § 806(5)) if it calls the consumer “repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass.” Consumers complain frequently about multiple calls, but now there isn't a specific rule for when multiple calls become a problem. Should there be? If so, how should CFPB draw the line between a diligent effort to collect an overdue account vs. abusive calling?

One state, Massachusetts, has a straightforward rule: only two phone communications (whether calls, texts, or messages) in any 7-day period. For a work phone, the rule is stricter: 2 in a 30-day period. Should federal law take this approach? If so, what should be the limits? Should the limit cover all kinds of communications (for example, emails as well as texts and calls)?

Automated dialing systems are another frequent consumer complaint. These systems predict who, when and how often to call based on the time of day, the number of collectors available, and the length of prior collection calls to the consumer. This technology makes debt collection a lot more efficient, but sometimes when consumers answer, there is a long pause before a real person speaks or the call hangs up. This can happen when the system mispredicts how quickly a collector will be available to talk when the automated call goes through.

In telephone marketing calls, the FTC has a rule that at least 97% of calls must be connected to a real person within 2 seconds of when the consumer answers the call. To decide if this kind of rule would make sense for debt collection, CFPB wants more information:

  • how often do collectors use these automated dialing systems?
  • how often consumers are bothered by “dead air” and “hang-ups”?

If there is a problem, should the standard be the same as for telemarketing – or should more (or less) leeway by given to automated dialing systems?

See what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Specific Section 806 Prohibition Questions.


Commenting is now closed.

Collectors are responsible for re-establishing contact with delinquent customers and providing services that facilitate repayment of the loans, regardless of the technology utilized. In Collections, automated dialing systems effectively increase the ability for the collector to reach delinquent customers unwilling to proactively reach out to the creditors. Automated dialing systems are used in many other ways not related to debt collection: telemarketers use them to reach potential customers, schools use them to notify parents of closings due to inclement weather. The technology is the same but the intent is different based on the user.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits creditors from using automated dialing systems to call cell phone numbers without consent from the customer. The TCPA’s original purpose, protecting consumers from costly charges as a result of automated calls, has been subsumed by the new goal of preventing overly numerous call attempts to a number that (generally) is directly connected to the customer. It does not change the purpose of collection calls, it merely makes the process less efficient.

Regulating which numbers can be called using an automated dialing system is also counter to the growing reality of wireless-only households. According to the Center for Disease Control's 'Wireless Substitution' latest report (Early release data, July-December 2012), over one third (36%) of adults in the United States live in a household with only wireless telephone service. That figure is even higher (45%) when you look at children living in the US. With an average annualized growth rate of 34%, it is conceivable that sometime before 2020 only a minority of the country's adults will be living in households with a landline telephone that can be autodialed.

The CFPB should allow for the autodialing of all telephone numbers provided by the customer without byzantine consent requirements. Regardless of whether it is at application or during the course of normal business, once the number is provided by the customer to the creditor, that number should be considered another viable option for collection.

Thank you for coming to RegulationRoom, dan.helfgott. Can you think of any cost-effective alternatives to the consent requirements that would still protect against the problem of overly numerous call attempts to a cell phone?

The problem is that cell phone customers have to pay for the minutes that are used. I have pre paid cell service and debt collectors are calling me all the time looking for someone else who I do not know. This is the problem. Harassment to the cell phone owner and harassment that the cell phone owner must pay for. this is why it will always remain illegal for debt collectors to call cell phones.

I still vividly remember receiving automated calls every Saturday morning in college insisting that I settle a debt under someone else's name. It was a case of mistaken identity, and eventually I sorted it out by tracking down the collection agency and calling them during business hours. This was a tremendous inconvenience, however. I strongly support limitations on robocalls, on total call volumes, and ask that you consider creating a complaint process for harassing or mistargeted calls. Collection agencies should face financial sanctions for misbehavior, payable to the target of their abuse.

Welcome tjl, and thanks for sharing your story. CFPB does have a process for handling debt collection complaints. Anyone can read more about that process and submit a complaint, here. What do you think about dan.helfgott's comment that robocalls make it easier for collector to reach debtors unwilling to proactively reach out to the creditors?

The most cost-effective alternative that still protects against numerous attempts is for the customer to pick up the phone on the first call. :-)

All joking aside, the dialer still is the best solution for managing call attempts. Speaking with the customer is, and will always be, the most direct way of resolving a delinquent debt. The technology can be adapted to put limits on how many times a particular number, account, or customer can be called during the day or month. Many creditors have already enacted such changes proactively to ensure that they *don't* harass the customer but still make a reasonable effort to collect on the debt. It's the same solution that prevents Massachusetts accounts from being called more than twice in a seven-day period.

Why not just assign the debt to one collector who would use his/her very own fingers on the buttons to place the collection call?

Hi Cathy, I'd like to reply to your comment, "Why not just assign the debt to one collector who would use his/her very own fingers on the buttons to place the collection call?"

It's a good question, but unfortunately the answer is (of course) complicated. I can think of two quick reasons why that wouldn't be feasible:
1. Manually dialing phones slows down businesses and raises costs;
2. Automated dialing has preventive measures built in that manually dialing does not.

To expand on the first point, debt collectors are cost centers, meaning their primary goal is to minimize costs (i.e., delinquent monies). An automated dialing system allows for a much more efficient manner of calling delinquent account-holders. Representatives are able to review the account history and status while the system connects the call, so the rep can quickly engage the customer. If a customer has given their cell phone or home number to the lender knowing it may be used for future contact attempts, there is no difference to the customer if the call is executed through a computer or dialer on the keypad.

To expand on the second point, automated dialing systems have a lot of built in controls that actually protect the consumer. People make mistakes, and so do collectors: calling before 8am or after 9pm, calling a number that has been restricted through a Cease & Desist request, or even calling many many times throughout the day. Automated dialers can have filters in place that restrict calls to customers based on location, time of day, or even how many attempts have already been made. In addition, calls made through the dialer can all be recorded so if there is a problem with the representative, the customer can refer back to the recording and the truth will come out.

Thanks, and have a great day.

I don't really care if manual dialing costs you more money. You obviously have never been subjected to dozens of misdirected robo calls from debt collectors.

Hi cathysceebs. CFPB has said that efficient and cost-effective methods of debt collection can allow creditors to give consumers more credit at lower prices. The agency has asked whether the FTC’s approach (at least 97% of calls must connect to a real person within 2 seconds of when the consumer answers) would be a good way to balance protecting consumers from the kinds of problems you’ve had with keeping collection costs down. What do you think?

A dialer does none of the things to which you refer. A human takes a lists of calls that are deemed restricted to any of the criteria that you listed, and loads that list into the computer software that also holds a lists of all calls to be made. Then the list of restricted calls are "scrubbed" out of the automated dialer. This scrubbing process is akin to a human scratching out a phone number with a pen on a paper list. There are no measurable gains in consumer protection to which you refer. Calls are not recorded through the dialer. Dialers work in unison with the recording software. This recording software records manual phone calls just the same.

Mr. Dan,
I bet YOU never had your phone number programmed into a robo-dialer? I can assure you that it's lots of fun.
Costs too much to do manual dialing? Too bad.

To the Moderator,
I do not think that answering 97% of the calls from an automated dialer within two seconds is a solution to my problem.
I would like for Mr. Dan to explain exactly what the safeguards of using a robo dialer are.
From my perspective as a frequent recipient of robo calls from debt collectors, the problem is a lack of ownership and impersonality of the collection agency when the debt is not assigned to one collector to handle.
Years ago when a collector would call me, it would always be the same person. Now it is not.
Assign the debt to one collector who would then take full responsibility for making all contacts with the alleged debtor. This could even include acquisition of location information.

Ihate them. I get tons of robo calls.

While it is easy to lash out against debt collectors, it is also important to remember the cost that many businesses incur to not only collect the debts but also to follow the burdening regulations put on them. There are some bad apples for sure but most debt collectors are honestly trying to collect a fairly small debt. It is important that any piece of legislation or rule coming out of the CFPB also take into consideration the importance of consumers to pay ALL debts in the manner agreed but also agree to allow debt collectors reasonable means to collect those debts. cell phones should NEVER be off limits in today's consumer climate.
If politicians can send me robo calls for their campaigns then they shouldn't ban businesses from using them. A few fair, common sense rules may help penalize the bad apples.
Lastly, all consumers should realize the extra costs they pay everyday at every business or service they utilize that are due to criminals, irresponsible borrowers and those in our population that cost businesses money due to their lack of integrity. We all pay a lot of extra money each year due to those who intentionally disregard their own responsibilities so complaining that they were called during dinner or in the morning is unacceptable. Pay your small debts before buying you iPhone or next trip to McDonalds.

Thank you for your comment CommonSense, and welcome to Regulation Room. CFPB is concerned about balancing costs to collectors while making sure consumers get the information and help they need. The agency has specific questions about exactly how collectors should contact consumers on cell phones. For example, the subsection above this one is about what information should be included in voicemails, and this section discusses text messaging.

The industry tries to make people's lives miserable by repeated calls. Sometimes people have justifiable reasons they have not paid a debt (unemployment, disputed amount). They are like vultures preying on people and their actions need to be limited. I make it a rule not to deal with collection agencies at all. I do not answer calls I don't recognize and if I know it is a debt collector I block their number. It is pretty effective.
Legislation should be passed to prevent the calls altogether and they should be limited to mailing requests for payment.

I'm with Massachusetts on this one. Repetitive and robo-calls are annoying and not productive. Another fact about robo-calls is that their messages often start in the middle, or maybe this is done on purpose. When it has happened to me, I just hang up. Policies regulating the number of contacts made within a specific time period should include all modes of technology.

Having gone through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy I can tell you that debt collector phone calls were the worst part of the bankruptcy experience. Massachusetts has it right limiting the number of calls debt collectors can make. That would remove one of the favorite illegal tactics debt collectors use to harass debtors. Some debt collectors would threaten to put us on robocalls so that our phone rang hourly until we agreed to a repayment loan schedule. Or they would threaten to call my spouse at work to see if he would be "more cooperative" and agree to a loan repayment schedule even after being informed that his workplace did not allow debt collection calls. Nothing phased these people and they appeared to enjoy verbally abusing me. Informing them that we wanted all debt collection to be written was also ignored.

I could accurately predict who was calling by the day and time of the calls. Chase Bank called every Tuesday morning at 9AM. Bank of America called every Monday morning at 10:30AM. These calls were always professional and appreciated. I followed specific instructions given by our bankruptcy attorney who did not want the debt collectors to know that we were planning on filing bankruptcy in a few months. So I faithfully answered every single debt collector call for almost six months. I politely confirmed my identity. I confirmed I owed the debt and then I politely told each call that I could not start to repay the debt at this time. The banks/credit cards accepted this without a problem and remained professional. Others like GE Capital and the vacation time share debt collectors would then start with the abusive comments. Calling me a "deadbeat" and swearing at me was popular. Another popular threat was how they would harass us nonstop until they got their money. What finally put a stop to the unethical tactics was when they would call and inform me that I was being taped I then informed them that I too was now taping their phone calls. Most immediately hung up. A few would clean up their act and then act in a professional manner. The ability to tape debt collection calls is a powerful tool for the debtor to have and I would encourage this agency to grant debtors this right. Nothing cleaned up the bad behavior like knowing they were being taped.

Hi Cindy L., I’m sorry to hear about your experience with repeated calling. You say that Massachusetts has it right by limiting the number of calls debt collectors can make (2 communications within a 7-day period for personal phones and only 2 in a 30-day period for work phones). Do you think this is the right way to go? Or should the CFPB do something different?

The CFPB should ban workplace calls completely. Consumers provided a home phone number when they take on the debt and that should be the number they call to collect it. Communicating by registered/certified letter should also be the alternate method not workplace calls.

Second Massachusetts limiting the total number of calls is a fabulous idea. We don't throw debtors in prison today yet the ridiculous amount of abuse and scorn they must endure is totally unacceptable. CFPB desperately needs to clean up the debt collection industry.

They should not be allowed to call people at work or on their cell phones.

I don't know what constitutes as "repeatedly or continuously," but more than once a day seems to qualify. The system is designed to give collectors complete control, leaving the consumer with none. Letters through the mail is a much more effective approach, but collectors refuse to honor that request.

Welcome to RegulationRoom, grabershane, and thank you for your comments and suggestions about debt collectors making phone calls. Do you have an experience with debt collectors you’d like to share as support for your suggestions?

No phone calls at work. I agree! Work is for work, not personal debt business. I personally don't get calls at work, but I can see how embarrassing it would be and how quickly the company would probably fire. Then how would the debt collector get their money? No work phone calls period, should be the law.

Skip Tracing - Repetitive Calls;

As a debt collector, I noticed a problem with the protection of landlords/property owners who are requesting internal DNC's with the company I have employment with.

As they will be Do not call flagged "DNC" with one account, they will not be DNC'ed with another account for the purposes of skip tracing, the chance of repeat calls in urban centers harassing certain members of the public is plausible as the only numbers that are held consistently in the database afaik "By Law" are verified and confirmed numbers.

Kind Regards,

Thank you for your comment, Render. CFPB is interested in hearing ideas from debt collectors on how to make it easier to tell the “bad apples” from responsible collectors. Do you have specific suggestions for how CFPB could create rules that would resolve the problem you identified?

Where is the line drawn between abusive calling versus a diligent effort to collect a debt? I have experienced a debt collector call me several times in a day although they have already got the voice mail. Even if I already have spoke to them and told them my situation and created a "payment date," they call again the next day. I do not know if the system is talking to each other or they just have that "auto dialer" on and just calls all day and every day. It is abusive and on hte verge of harrassment. Not to mention, the time that they call is 10pm or 9pm. I believe that is too late to call and there should be reasonable time to call and based upon the time zone you LIVE IN not based on the area code of your mobile phone number.

Actually, calls to your mobile/cell phone are illegal.

Welcome to RegulationRoom raquelmc949, and thank you for joining the discussion. Today, more and more people are using cell phones instead of traditional land lines. However, consumers may get charged based on the number of calls or texts received on their mobile phones, so the FTC has taken the position that mobile phones should not be used. CFPB has been given authority to make rules on this, and wants to know more about using cellphones in debt collection. Do you think that the Massachusetts rule, limiting communications to two calls per week, would help with repetitive calling? Is there another way CFPB should address the problem you experienced?

I keep getting collection calls for some unkown person on my cell phone at least 4 times a day. I have repeatedly told them that this is not that person's number. I recently got a new number and it is so aggravating to monitor your calls because of someone else

I absolutely hate robocalls, especially those that repeat constantly and relentlessly. Do these people think I'm not aware that I owe somebody, that I will forget from one day to the next? There are some people who shirk their responsibilities, but there are also those who simply do not have money to pay out a debt. People lose their jobs, get laid off, get sick and can't work, retire and try to make it from one month to the next on miniscule retirement benefits. There should be a regulation against robocalls, period. They should not be allowed. They are not necessary and only serve to harass people. It's a bullying tactic, in my opinion.

Is it possible to just allow consumers to opt out of certain kinds of communication entirely? Does CFPB have authority to require opt-out at any point during the process? They could set transparent, limited rate increases which debt collectors could charge for each mode of communication that is eliminated. A rule setting that kind of rate increase would add some necessary transparency to the question of whether these kinds of communications are even worthwhile for the agency.

*Are even worthwhile for the _debt collection_ agency...

Are you seriously suggesting that debt collectors be able to charge debtors a "communication elimination fee"??! So a debtor tells you to not call them at work anymore so you say "fine, but we will have to charge you a 'do not call at work fee'" or a debtor says "I have hire a lawyer, do not contact me. All contact must go through my lawyer." and you say "fine, but we will have to charge you a 'lawyer communication fee.''' Maybe, I misread what you are trying to say. Would you like to clarify your position?

There's no need to be rude about it. There are some debt collection practices that should obviously be illegal. Other things that people are discussing here are obviously matters of convenience. To the extent that preferences are widely shared and outright prohibition wouldn't increase lending costs across the board beyond a marginal amount, outright prohibition makes sense. But if someone wants the ability to stop someone from conducting any and all robocalls from all phones, and robocalls help creditors recoup their loans, then the creditor should be able to charge a regulated fee for that convenience. I'm not saying that the debt collection agency itself would charge the fee (although my late-night post stated otherwise). Just that a consent-based approach is another option.

Thank you for your comments, DannyF. It sounds like you're saying that automated dialing is one of the most cost-effective options for collectors. Would a rule like the one in Massachusetts (limiting phone communications to two in a seven-day period), be a good balance between costs to collectors and benefits to consumers? Or are there other problems with a limit like this? CFPB is also concerned about charges to consumers for incoming calls or texts on cell phones. You can read CFPB's questions and ideas about this in the section below this one.

Any collector who uses a robocall, without first having a live person call to verify that the phone number is correct, is lazy and irresponsible. Aside from being a major nuisance, robocalls to a third party are always an improper disclosure because prerecorded calls are required to include the name of the company at the start of the message (per the TCPA). I've received dozens and dozens of calls like this, and now I know which of my neighbors are alleged to owe money. I say "alleged", because the companies making these calls are usually the same scofflaws who have been sued repeatedly for trying to collect nonexistent debts. Outlawing robocalls, particularly robocalls to third parties, would hurt the bad actors without having much impact on legitimate collectors.

I wouldn't have a problem with live callers using autodialers, except that the technology used by some collection agencies is so far behind the times. Telemarketers are able to stay within the required 3% abandonment rate, yet my experience is that the drop rate on live calls from collectors ranges from 50% to 100%. (Yes, I had one company hang up immediately every single time one of their agents called me. I'm not sure how this is profitable.) Extending the FTC's 3% rule to debt collection calls would address this issue.

Thank you for your comment and welcome to RegulationRoom. There are a couple points in your comment I’d like to pick up on. First, if you are receiving a lot of information about your neighbors’ debts, you may want to join the conversation here.
Second, CFPB is interested in how often autodial calls are dropped and how bothered customers are, and it sounds as though you have had to deal with a high number of automated calls which are dropped very often. Have any other commenters experienced the same high rate of dropped calls?

This is a collectors favorite. They call over and over to harass debtors and they should be limited to one call per day with a required voicemail stating their purpose.

Thanks for commenting, brendandavis. What do others think of limiting debt collector calls to one call per day? Does this properly draw the line between a diligent effort to collect an overdue account vs. abusive calling?

I think limitation is good as not to harass. I think it has been generally defined as 3-4 days per day, though I think that is still excessive, and any collector who follows that is clearly trying to harass. Who else would someone call 3-4 times in a day? But, with the example of 1 call per day, I would think that there would also need to be another limitation such as 1 call per day or no more than 4 calls in a week. Otherwise, a collector could call 1 time a day, 7 times a week, 30 times in a month, etc. And personally, in my personal phone calls and in my business phone calls, it can take me more than a day or two to return a message. Customarily, in personal phone calls and business phone calls, if a message is left, the caller will leave a message and wait a couple of days before calling back if the person has yet to return the phone call. This is the way normal phone etiquette works--both in personal phone calls and in business calls. So, why should debt collections be different, why should they break the norms.

With a fully communicative voicemail identifying the purpose of the call I think one call is quite diligent. If they choose to call and leave no message then they might as well have done nothing. At least this way their message is being delivered.

No robo-calls or automated dialing systems should be allowed for any profit-making or solicitation purpose. Period. You can call me if a tornado is coming, but if you want money, you have to use a person. And I don't see why I should pay for the call.

I often get robo calls about family members debt, sometimes 3 or 4 a day, usually for family members that I haven't spoken to for decades. I am not sure how they get my phone no. as it is unlisted and I am sure the family members don't have it.

Massachusetts has this right. There need to be strict and enforceable limits on the number of times a collector can call during the week. I've received as many as 40 calls over a 5-day period from Citicards and calls every 50 minutes at work during the day by Wells Fargo. THIS IS SHAMEFUL AND THIS FREQUENT REPEAT CALLING HAS TO BE STOPPED BY LAW!

Those of us who are in debt know it and don't have to be reminded over and over again. Calling numerous times per day or per week won't get the debt paid any faster. If you explain that to the collector on the other end of the phone, they blame the repeat dialing on their computers. Now that's lame. The computers can be programmed to call once a day or a hundred times a day. Once is enough.

Welcome to the RegulationRoom, SGC, and thanks for your contributions. It seems that one of your main concerns is about receiving calls at work. Does your employer prohibit these kinds of calls at work? Did you try to tell the collectors about your policies at work, and if so, did they continue to call? You may be interested in commenting on CFPB’s questions on workplace calls in the section above.

we are bombarded with robo calls every day from early am to late evening with unidentified callers; no msgs left after answering machine kicks in; these types of calls should be barred unless msg left with identity of caller included and basis of call to include name of creditor and debtor included

Thank you for joining the discussion on RegulationRoom, daross. Debt collectors have to identify themselves when contacting consumers, but must also protect consumers' privacy by not letting other people besides the debtor hear information about the debt. If there is a new federal rule about leaving messages, what should it be? CFPB has suggestions on what kinds of information should be included in the messages left by collectors. You can read these options and join other commenters who are discussing them in the subtopic "Voicemail and answering machine messages," above.

I would like to have some protection from the calls I have received over several years from debt collection services looking for a woman who does not live at this address and has never lived at this address. I keep getting reassurances that my number will be removed, but the calls continue.

I have the same exact problem. I have had this problem for 20+ years. I can't tell you how many times I've told the person on the other end that the person they are looking for has NEVER lived here and not a relative. It sure is disgusting. I can't figure out what to do.

Welcome to RegulationRoom, ahmom. That sounds like a frustrating situation. If you haven't done so already, you may want to submit a complaint to CFPB. CFPB also has sample letters to help consumers response to debt collectors.

Thank you for your input MFoster, welcome to RegulationRoom. The FDCPA generally prohibits debt collectors from talking to anyone but the consumer. However, there is an exception for collectors trying to locate the consumer, which seems to be what's happening in your situation. If you tell the collectors that this individual does not live at your address, the collectors are not allowed to call again. Do you know if the problem is that this rule is not being enforced, and the same collectors continue to call, or is the problem that many different collectors are trying to collect on several outstanding debts? You may be interested in reading more on what CFPB has to say about this on the Talking to other people about the consumer's debt topic page.

Dan says that the "Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits creditors from using automated dialing systems to call cell phone numbers without consent from the customer" and that sounds reasonable if that were true. I receive countless ro-bo calls on my cell, to which most never leave a message so there is no way to report it. To add to that, I have sent written notice to all creditors not to call my cell because of the charges, yet someone is calling. I do not answer those unknown calls because I have nothing more to add to any previous calls about the debt. The only call that has ever left a message is about a debt for someone else, too which I called and told them ithey have the wrong number and not to call, but they still call.

I was receiving 4 or 5 calls a day from Midland Debt Collection daily for two weeks on my cellphone. As I'm unemployed and scraping by I was ignoring - or rather trying to ignore - the calls. They were always hang-ups. Never any message. As I live in Indiana - a "business-oriented" state, it seems the laws favor the debt collectors over the debtors. Limits on calls? Please, do. When I finally did have the gumption to answer when they called at 8:10am on a Sunday morning, I made a strong case about being harrassed and informed him I didn't want to be contacted on my cell phone. It's only a few days but I'll see. I still don't know if it was any legit debt that they were calling about.

I have a fairly common last name, and my listing in the phone book uses two initials rather than a first name. I get calls from credit collectors several times a week looking for various people with my last name and one or the other of my two initials. They are just taking a stab in the dark. When I tell them that I don't live with any other family members and that I have an excellent credit rating, they take me off of their list to of numbers for today's person of interest. When I ask them not to call me at all because I have no other people living with me that they would be looking for, they say that they only had me listed for their person of the day. Tomorrow my number might pop up as a possibility for tomorrow's person of the day, but they "can't do anything about tomorrow." I actually had a credit collection rep (in India) say that to me.

I think the current limits are fine. The MA rules are too restrictive and frankly could be a disservice to the consumer who wants to try to resolve the debt. I do not believe in robo calling but do believe that preview dialing on an automated dialer system should not be prohibited as the agent still has to review the information on the account and push a button to allow the dial.

I support these restrictions on robo-calling and any calls during the work hours. With respect to robo-calls, any robo-calls that are misleading should be restricted. That is, a robo-call that tells you that you have a message or an account update, and the only way to get it is to call a special number with an extension, but when you call, it is just the same message asking where your payment is, is a waste of the consumer's time and the consumer's cellular resources (two phone calls, one received, one sent).

I had surgery at a hospital in 2006. I have 2 forms of insurance, both excellent. Therefore I rarely have a medical bill to pay, or it is for a very small amount. Sometime after the surgery (I do not recall how long after the procedure), there were repeated calls to my phone by an actual person who said, " This is (first name), give me a call at (phone number)". Since we did not know the person, no one called back. We thought we should report it to the DONOTCALL list, but we had no company name to report. Finally I happened to answer the phone when that number appeared and the male voice said, "you know what this is about, right?" and I said, "no". He said, " you have an overdue charge with (hospital name). You haven't paid your bill. I work with a bill collection company". I said "I have never received a bill." He said "really?". I said , "yes". He said, "Call accounting at the hospital". I called the hospital and they said to talk to my insurance company. I called my 2nd insurance company and they said both the first and the second insurance company had paid the hospital. The 2nd insurance company said I did owe money on the bill, something like $1.08. A bill collection company had been hired to collect $1.08 for which I had never received a bill! I asked both insurance companies to send me additional copies of the Explanation of Benefits. When I received the copies, I sent them to the billing department of the hospital with a check for the amount that the 2nd insurance company said I owed. I never did receive a bill. Nor was i warned it might go to a collection agency. A collection agency was hired for an amount just slightly over $1.00. Because of this experience, I do not plan ever to use this hospital again if I can help it. My family has had referrals to doctors associated with this hospital, but I always try to get a doctor who is not associated with it. Bonita Malit

Welcome to RegulationRoom, boni. It seems like you might be dealing with some unreasonable debt collection practices. You may want to submit a complaint to CFPB. CFPB also has sample letters to help consumers response to debt collectors. Also, you can take a look at the post on Notice that the debt has been turned over to a collector and contribute any ideas you might have on that issue.

I too have received calls from collectors who are on fishing expeditions, looking for a person who owes money. THE PROBLEM IS, EVEN AFTER BEING INFORMED THAT THE PERSON THEY ARE LOOKING FOR CANNOT BE REACHED AT MY PHONE NUMER AND TO PUT ME ON THEIR DO NOT CALL LIST - THEY STILL CALL. I have contacted local law enforcement, state attorney general and federal levels and been informed that if I owed money, I can have the debt collector contact me in writing only, but if I don't owe money, I have no protection because the debt collector has a right to do business. Unless the debt collector has more than a last name that matches the person's who owes the debt, they should be allowed to attempt to contact that phone number ONLY until they are told that that person cannot be reached at that phone number. They should need to have more than a last name for any further phone calls. They should also have to tell the person they insist on calling why they believe they can find the person who owes the money there. Additionally, they should also be required to inform the consumer of how to file a complaint if the calls continue. There should be a penalty for harassing people who don't owe money. When you don't owe money, getting phone calls early in the morning or late at night twice a week is harassment (the more abusive ones robo call several times a day and hang up when an answering machine picks up). Additionally, the means of protecting yourself from harassment should not require any financial burden to the consumer. (I was told I could file a lawsuit in the case of one extremely abusive collector - excuse me, I should have the expense of a lawsuit - all because some minimum wage call center employees refuse to believe that the person they're looking for can't be reached at my phone number?)

Welcome to RegulationRoom Common Last Name, thank you for sharing your story and suggestions. Generally, the collector can’t contact a person more than once to try to get location information unless the collector reasonably believes that the first response was wrong or incomplete, and the person now has correct or complete contact information. CFPB wants to know if a new rule should spell out what it takes for a collector to "reasonably" believe these two things. To comment more on this issue, see talking to other people about the consumer's debt. Also, you can file a complaint with CFPB, if you are still experiencing harassing calls from debt collectors.

I have an amusing story to share about an experience I had with a debt collection agency one afternoon. I had to spend quite a bit of time dealing with their repeated calls. Of course, they weren't looking for me but rather for someone with my very common last name and first initial.

I had many calls from them one day. Apparently, their telephone representatives were trained to hang up if they received any response other than, "How do I pay?" They'd hang up on me before I could complete a sentence. That particular day, either by accident or through malice (I suspect the latter.), they had their robo dialer programmed to call back immediately.

The representative would hang up on me and before I could step away from the phone, the robo dialer would call me back and I'd be speaking with another representative who would hang up on me. After many such calls and hang-ups, I was finally able to get a representative to stay on the line with me long enough for me to explain that they were calling the wrong person. After that the calls stopped.

As I think back on this experience, I find it quite comical, but I didn't at the time. I did file complaints with the FTC and my state's Attorney General.

One communication from the debt collector per week is plenty. On top of that, The debt collector's phone rep should have power over the autodialer in the following way.

A consumer's number is on the screen, the report log on that number is on the screen, the most current info at the top of the screen. If the debt collector phone rep sees that the very last communication does is already updated (such as waiting on a job interview with a date that is still in the future), then the debt collector phone rep should have the power to prevent the auto dialer from making the call.

Not only does this prevent unnecessary hounding of the customer, it also helps prevent abusive reactions from consumers towards the debt collector phone rep because the consumer recalls their last communication and that what was discussed could not have reasonably happened yet.

The points you make here, along with your other recent comments about a timeframe the consumer establishes in which they can be reached, the one call per week limitation, and a consumer's choice to have the call recorded, all sound like great ideas from the consumer's perspective. Collectors would likely push back on your primary suggestion here as it would require them to keep new databases of information and have trained representatives on hand to override the robo-calls. These are definitely implementable ideas, nonetheless. Do you think there is a way to get collectors on board?

Yes. I think there is a way to get the debt collectors on board. The CFPB can remind them that debt collection companies may be exposing their own phone reps / employees to unnecessary verbal abuse from customers who have a legitimate justification for being upset because of follow up calls that ignore the updated agreement just reached in the prior call.

If the previous communication with the debt collector creates a new timeline for possible repayment, then the debt collector should not step on that timeline by making subsequent calls less than a week later. unless the customers says call back in less than a weeks time.

This also gives the debt collection phone rep the ability to say..."It has been a week or longer since our last communication"...Which allows the customer a moment to realize they are not being harassed on a daily basis by the same debt collector.

Some consumers have situations in which their income grinds to zero and they may default on more than one account. Imagine 5 debt collectors each calling twice a day. Even one call a week can still equal one call a day if a consumer has five simultaneous defaults, but that is certainly preferable to 2 calls a day from each collection account, which would equal 10 calls a day, every day.

I would like to see some strict regulation on the number of times a creditor can call in a given period of time. Capital One Bank's dialers will call every single hour if a payment is overdue...sometimes these things are simply overlooked. If I know I am paying bills on a given day, I just use my caller ID and ignore them. I do think that these calls need to be at least limited. It comes down to simple harrasment.

Thanks for your comment, Humblesage, and welcome to RegulationRoom! I’m sorry to hear about your problems with receiving so many calls. What do you think about CFPB’s new proposal? Where should they draw the line between making diligent efforts to collect debts versus simply being abusive? Would you favor something like the Massachusetts model, which allows only two phone communications in any 7-day period?

Yes, the Massachusetts model sounds very sensible and the Feds should consider adopting it or something similar. Two contacts in a 7-day period is plenty, but I think wherever the limits are set they will have to be very strictly enforced. These collectors will find any loopholes, excuses or reasons to get around a regulation like this. There has to be zero tolerance, every time, no exceptions. They have violated our privacy and the right to peaceful enjoyment of our home one too many times.

While I do not advocate daily robo-calling, I have to wonder why a consumer finds themselves on the receiving end of these calls? Receiving the daily call would indicate the consumer is also continually ignoring this debt. Was that the plan going in? Did the consumer think "I would like to receive excellent service but I don't want to pay a dime for it"? Sadly, there is a demographic that thinks this way. If the consumer has found themselves in a tough spot I would think they would choose to take the call or contact the debt collecting entity to try to remedy the situation. As far as regulations I do believe that one call a week is sufficient. The idea of the robo-call is to keep the debt on the consumers mind in an effort that when they get the money they will remember to call and pay the debt. Any other purpose I think would be considered an attempt to annoy the consumer into paying. The demographic that allows this is never going to pay anyway so why play the game. Even a robo-call costs money so why continually throw good money after bad. In 30 years of this business I realize there are two types of people, the one's who want to pay their bill and the ones who never intended to pay in the first place.

Hi tjensen@emeraldar, thank you for your comment and welcome to RegulationRoom. Given your experience in the collection industry, we hope you will share more of your thoughts on how to solve the problems CFPB has identified. For example, you may be interested in the subtopic about voicemails, above. Some collectors avoid leaving voicemails because of privacy issues. What has been your experience with this, and how could the problem be solved? You may also want to join the discussion on Making sure debt collectors & buyers have information about the debt.

Some of us find ourselves on the receiving end of daily (or more frequent) robo calls because we have common last names. And I do think that the debt collectors who have called me would very much like me to pay the debt even though it isn't mine.

7|Limiting collector communications; avoiding mobile call and texting charges - 34

Agency Proposal

The consumer has the right to tell the collector to stop contacting him/her completely. (FDCPA § 805(c)). When a consumer tells the collector to stop all communications, should collectors still be required to send notices or disclosures of rights that are required by other consumer protection laws?

Should the consumer also have the right to limit the times, places, and methods the collector uses to contact them? Would the benefits to consumers of being able to pick their preferred times and methods of contact outweigh the costs to collectors of having to keep track of and stick to these preferences?

One justification for letting consumers limit the ways collectors can contact them is cost: consumers might be charged when collectors contact them by calling or texting on mobile phones.

  • How common is it for consumers to be charged per minute? What's the average cost for the average length of calls?
  • How common are charges for text messaging? What's the average cost?
  • Are consumers who pay per call or text message more likely to be the consumers with debt collection problems?

There are several ways a new federal rule could handle this:

  1. let consumers limit the ways collectors can communicate, so they avoid mobile phone charges
  2. require collectors to get consumers' consent before communicating through mobile phone calls or texting
  3. allow collectors to communicate through mobile phone calls or texting only if they use "free-to-end-user" services that prevent charges to the consumer's phone account

What would be the costs and benefits of these various approaches?

Read what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Ceasing Communications and Specific Section 808 Prohibition Questions.


Commenting is now closed.

I do not answer my phones with no name and number ID

You don't answer you'll get a call again. Rather than ignore you could answer and ask the company not to call you.

Why should, an agency have to mail a letter to the consumer who requested not to be called? They most likely won't read it

Because it it the consumer's phone and that is their right! Why should the consumer pay to be harassed?! Put the cost of doing this business where it belongs, which is on the companies not the consumers! I pay for my cell phone, I pay for the minutes, and I am the person that will decide how they are used and who will call me, not these shady, nasty companies! Which one do you work for by the way?

I don't think the consumer should have the options as to when and how they are called. Most collection agency's today would remove a consumers phone number hen asked.

That's not true in my experience. Unethical debt collectors just ignore requests now.

Most consumers also don't know that debt collectors can call you to collect a debt on any phone number you have used to contact the company or provided the company. So calling your credit card company from your best friend's home phone, your neighbor's phone, or your relative's house puts their phone numbers on your contact list. This practice needs to be changed to protect the confidentiality of the debt collection process.

You are a liar! I have been harassed for over 5 years by companies looking for someone I have never heard of because this person put a random string of our area code, local exchange and 4 numbers together (that turned out to be my number) on a loan that he then defaulted on. I have told them to stop calling, they have a wrong number, and guess what??? 5 Years later, they are still calling!

Welcome to RegulationRoom DianeMathers, being harassed for over 5 years sounds extremely frustrating. However, we ask that you refrain from name calling or personal attacks when commenting on RegulationRoom. Federal law does give a consumer the right to tell the collector to stop contacting him/her completely. You may want to visit CFPB’s web page where you can submit a complaint about a debt collector. They also provide sample letters to help consumers tell the debt collector to stop contacting them unless they can show evidence that the consumer is responsible for this debt.

Consumers should not incur additional costs for cell phone calls, texting or voice messaging in relation to collections. The more costs assessed to a debtor, the less money they have to pay their creditors. Debt collectors and creditors should be required to stop all modes of communication to a device that the debtor indicates does not provide free communications whether calls or texts.

Unless the consumer chooses to communicate by phone, all correspondences from collectors should go through mail. This allows the consumer to take time in considering what the collector is requesting. It also avoids confusion for both parties. The only reason this isn't the standard approach is because it limits how annoying and embarrassing collectors can be--plain and simple.

Let's start by assuming the creditor provided something for which a consumer agreed to pay. Creditors should be entitled to get a phone number and address at which the creditor can reach the consumer and to get updates as long as a debt is outstanding. If a consumer chooses to use only a cell phone, the creditor and collector should be able to contact him at that number.

Text me please... it is annoying to have to ignore your call every other day. For goodness sake it is 2013!!! Send me a text and wait for my reply. I cant take calls at work and ignore calls from numbers I dont know. Which makes it easy for me to be in collections and not know. If you have my cell number because the bank had it please use it. Send me a text and tell me who you are why youre calling. If not I wont answer.

It is against the law to call cell phones. And to send out texts. And no matter how much the debt collection lobbyists try to change the law, it won't work.

I am on a Senior plan for my mobile phone and I get charged for each text that comes in or goes out. I am able to make/receive texts, but have to pay for each one ... so it is not fair to make me pay extra on top of what I already owe. I am against using cell phones for business advertisements or debt collecting texts or calls.

Please include calls to family and friends of debtor. We are called frequently to pass on messages for people that have our last name, some of them we don't know.

Most consumers have a bad taste in their mouth from the way that a select few agencies used to operate. And rightfully so. But look at it from the other side. If i owed you $1,000 debt do you really think sending me a letter would do the trick? Would you attempt to call me to find out my intentions? My point is, agencies are operating under a pretty broad microscope. Compliance with the laws is being monitored very closely now. We view ourselves at my company as extensions of customer service. If we call you, we specifically ask if we are calling a cell and if it is okay to reach you on that number. If you say no, we remove the number.

Hi Go_Blue, thank you for commenting and welcome to RegulationRoom. CFPB wants to know more about good and bad collection practices in the industry. Do you know what other collectors do when consumers ask not to be contacted through their mobile phone? Have you ever had a problem where the consumer does not own a landline but does not want to be contacted via cellphone, and if so, what did you do in those situations? What do you think of CFPB's suggestions to the left, like the "free-to-end-user" services?

I assume by "free to end" you meant the agency is on the hook for the charges incurred on that particular call. I think it would be well worth exploring. We do have situations where the consumer doesnt have a landline and refuses access to their cell. If we recieve a cease and desist order we note the account and return it to our client as such. If a consumer simply asks not to be contacted via cell we will remove the cell and send a collection letter if it is within FDCPA guidelines. Other solutions may be to send a settlement letter allowing the consumer to save money in an effort to resolve the issue. The industry certainly didn't set a very good standard and regulation is certainly needed. I think the vast majotiry of us get the message loud and clear and are making sure we comply impicitly. The effort needs to be two fold. The consumers have to be willing to discuss the accounts and express willingness to pay. After all, if everyone's debts were paid, there would be no need for a call. And that's not meant to sound standoffish. The simple fact remains at the end of the day, debts are owed and our clients want their money. Consumers must share some of the responsibility.

I too, do not answer calls with no name, no number or 800 numbers. After over a year of unemployment and only able to get part time work, I had to give up my landline. I get repeated unknown calls on my cell, even though all creditors were sent written notices not to contact my cell number. I'm almost at a point that I cannot afford my cell, but if it give it up I have no way to get contact from a potential employer. When I get a full time job I will gladly pay my debts, but constant calls will not get the debt paid any faster. Not one company called me to give the the credit, so they should not call my cell and cost me more money that will prolong them getting paid. Besides, most of the calls are robo-calls with no message ever being left so I never know who the call is for.

A simple solution to all of the hype about calling cells which is by far the most common means of contacting a consumer these days. Direct that all telecommunication companies offer a site that allows the agencies to register their phone numbers. If a call is placed to a consumer that does not have unlimited calling or testing then the charges are reversed to the registered phone agency.

Hi Tom Tiernan, welcome to RegulationRoom and thank you for your comments. CFPB has suggested that allowing collectors to contact consumers through “free-to-end-user” services would solve the problem of consumers being charged for calls to their cell phones. Do you think that using “free-to-end-user" services would be an effective way to make sure consumers aren’t charged for cell phones calls? Are there any potential problems with using “free-to-end-user" services as a solution?

These so called free-to-end-user alternatives (if allowed to be used) also need to be regulated. There are huge privacy concerns at stake here. My friend started texting me on a free texting app, and then all of a sudden I was begging to be bombarded by SPAM text and SPAM phone calls. I can't be certain that the Free Text App that my friend was using was selling my phone number to other people, but it was a massive coincidence. Why else are these text apps free? How do they make their money (besides a few embedded ads)? Of course these people are selling phone numbers. My privacy is not for sell. Nor is my phone number. The CFPB needs to really think about these so called free-to-end user alternatives and what sort of privacy practices these companies are engaging in, if any.

Just to make my comment clear: I implied that the Free-to-end-user alternatives (if allowed to be used) need to be regulated so that they are not selling phone numbers and compromising the privacy of the consumers. My comment made it appear as though I think that the free texting apps (which allow people to text for free) and the free-to-end-user alternatives are the same thing. They are not. I don't want the free-to-end-user alternatives to behave the same as free texting apps -- selling phone numbers to Spammers.

I do think a "free to end user" would work and I don't see any problems with using such a practice or service. It creates some fairness for the collection companies and will not charge the cell owner if they do not have unlimited calling.

I do not think collectors would mind reimbursing consumers who are charged per call or per message. Add $5 for the hassle of getting the refund. Collectors should have a way to make contact with consumers who choose not to have a flat-rate telephone service.

Honest, respectful and open communication by all parties is the key to giving consumers enough information to identify and understand debts and come to workable resolutions for legitimate debts. It is also the key to stopping calls to wrong numbers. Collectors who are not honest and respectful should be fined or lose their right to be licensed.

Right now collectors are legally required to stop phone contact when notified by the consumer. They do not stop. And the law is not enforced. Reporting violations to regulators does nothing except get the complainant into some sort of database, and the regulators are never heard from again. There are decent laws on the books. It's the enforcement that is a failure.

They call you answer nobody talk so you hangup, notice they call 2-3 in one day.

Hi ktbaeohana, welcome to RegulationRoom and thanks for the comment. Just to be clear, are you saying that collectors have been calling you 2-3 times a day and when you pick up the phone they don't answer? Could you tell us a little bit more about this? Do you think the CFPB should limit the number of times collectors can call you per day?

yes they do and they need to stop this.

They should not have free-to-end-user it will just making worse for consumer. This doeʻs not make sense.

Hi ktbaeohana, thanks for your comments. CFPB thinks "free-to-end-user" services could be helpful because consumers wouldn't be charged when a collector calls their cell phone. Can you tell us more about why you think this would make things worse for the consumer?

I do not agree, when it come to company call or text all day and night. New federal rule should not do this at all. It sound like somebody is getting pay to put this new federal laws.It all about money as always

• The Industry is allowed to pursue individuals based on un-validated information and are never required to demonstrate that a debt is legitimate.
o Collections Agencies are predominately seeking to collect debts previously deemed uncollectable that are consolidated and sold as a block. Each time the debt is sold, less information regarding the debt is passed to the receiving company. After a few cycles, it appears the receiving company only has a name, a purported value and contact information.
• Even when Individuals challenge the debt as illegitimate by providing information in good faith, the collection company has no motivation or requirement to cancel or acknowledge the claim. Once a person is placed on a collection list, there appears to be no way to be removed without paying the purported debt even if it is not legitimate.
o Calls are largely staged from “Boiler Rooms” using computer auto dial. The collections agent who comes on wen the call connects with a live person is neither familiar with the case nor interested in anything other than closing the payment.
o There does not appear to be a statute of limitations on when an uncollected purported debt would no longer be pursuable.
• The Collection company is not required to be truthful about the process. When the collection company calls, they seek to pressure the individual into providing information to legitimize their case and pressuring the individual to pay even just a small amount, claiming that will erase the debt, but in reality, such an action will “restart the clock” on the debt and they will pursue full payment even harder.
• There is no ombudsman function where both sides can present their information and receive a binding decision regarding legitimacy of the purported debt.

What I would like to change:
• Require collection companies to have a legitimate pedigree on each debt in its portfolio – to include the name of the individual or corporation that initiated it, how the debt was incurred, what the terms were and what if any payments were made.
• Require the collection agency to divulge to the individual all information related to the debt up front, including who originated the claim, what other companies have owned the debt and require them to ask if the individual acknowledges the debt as legitimate or not legitimate. If the individual claims to have evidence that the debt is not legitimate, the case must be referred to an ombudsman for adjudication. If the Ombudsman determines the debt is not legitimate, the collection agency must remove the debt from its portfolio and either write off the debt or refer a claim back to the originator.
• There must be a legal mechanism for people to challenge the legitimacy and/or methods of the collections agency. Small Claims court or non-partisan (not paid for by the Collections Agencies) Ombudsman must be publicly known and readily accessible to hear any complaint and empowered to render actionable remedy to the complaint if proven warranted.

My Personal Experience Leading to these complaints and recommendations:
From approximately 18 years ago, my family and I participated in family therapy related to depression in one of my sons. The therapy was conducted through a series of insurance policies – we changed coverage from Kaiser (all in house therapists) to Aetna (who paid various rates for “in-plan” and “Out of Network” services). We ended up with a Psychiatrist and his staff Psychologists who managed therapies and medications. During our time with them, the Doctor changed his relationship with the Insurer from “in-Network” to “Out of Network” and near the end of our involvement ultimately sold his practice to a larger Medical system. Throughout the entire process, we paid every Co-pay and required share of expense for services, but the Insurance paid only a derated share of the portion of the Bill they were sent – ie. Cost of services rendered would be a certain amount and the insurance would pay whatever they determined the services to be worth and expect the Medical practice to absorb the difference. We were never billed for that difference, but I believe the Company that absorbed the practice did so at a value that was based on a total billing value. I believe when they did a bookkeeping merger, decided that the uncollected value was uncollected debt. It is possible that the combined organization went bankrupt – I do not know, because we did not continue our involvement. All I do know is a few years after we stopped receiving treatment, we started getting calls from a collection agency. We were concerned about impact to our credit rating and went to extraordinary lengths to deal in good faith with the company. Since they were the first recipient of the “debt” they were able to tell us where the debt came from. My wife provided copies of a VERY large file of medical bills that showed that we had paid EVERY required co-pay. The individual handling the account agreed with our assessment and they stopped calling. A few years later, it appears that uncollected amount was consolidated and sold to another collection company and the process started all over again. This time the collections company appeared to have no information about the origination of the debt and no interest in facts. After speaking with them several times it became clear that they would only accept money to stop the harassing calls. Over time, the calls would slow, then stop, only to start up again when the account was sold to yet another company. In the past two years, the calling has become incessant with the introduction of robo-dialing. We get calls at 8am on weekends, we get calls at dinner time, we get calls almost every day. About 2 years ago, I tried talking to the person who picked up after the computer detected that someone was on the line. He would not offer ANY information about who owed money, what the purported debt was from or when it was incurred. All he wanted was to get some form of payment – he claimed that if I paid $40, that would close it out. I believe, from things I have read that this is just a trick to gain current legitimacy of the debt.
I am angry that this has been allowed to continue so long without a reasonable method of remedy. If I truly owed this debt, I believe it would have showed up in my Credit Report – it has not. I resent the notion that I would have to pay a lawyer several thousand dollars to try to take this on in court. The collections business needs to have regulations like all legitimate businesses and there needs to be both a statute of limitations and a method for reaching an un-biased, binding ruling when the person being pursued can show the claim is not legitimate.

Thank you for sharing your story, SG, and welcome to RegulationRoom. I’m sorry to hear about all of the hassles you experienced. CFPB is listening, and detailed comments like yours can help shape the future of debt collection practices. You may also want to reply to some of the comments in the sections on Making sure debt collectors & buyers have info about the debt and When consumers dispute a debt, as you seem to have quite a bit of insight on those topics, as well.

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