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 Talking to other people about the consumer’s debt - 69

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1|Trying to locate the consumer - 47

Agency Proposal

Generally, federal law doesn’t allow debt collectors to talk with people other than the consumer about his/her debt. (FDCPA § 805(b)) One important exception is when the collector is trying to locate the consumer. The collector must

  • identify him/herself
  • say that he/she is trying to get or update contact information about the consumer.

The collector may not

  • say the consumer owes a debt
  • identify his/her employer unless “expressly requested.” (FDCPA § 804(1)(2)).

How often do collectors in these contacts talk about things other than locating the consumer? What are they talking about, and why? Are new federal rules needed to protect the consumer -- or the person the collector has contacted?

It can be tricky for the collector to identify him/herself without also revealing that he/she is trying to find the consumer to collect a debt. Some collectors use an alias. Should this be allowed? Only under some circumstances? In the same way, if the person contacted expressly asks who the collector is working for, giving the company's true name might reveal that this is a debt collection matter. Is there a way to handle this problem?

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 (FDCPA § 804(3)).

Should a new federal rule spell out what it takes for a collector to "reasonably" believe these two things?

When the consumer is represented by an attorney for the debt, the collector can’t ask other people for location information unless the attorney doesn’t respond in “a reasonable period of time” (FDCPA § 804(6)). Should there be a federal rule on how long a reasonable period of time is? (For related questions, see Unlawful collection practices—Communicating with a consumer who has an attorney.)

See what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Communications to Locate Debtors and Consumers Represented by Attorneys.


Commenting is now closed.

I am a family member of a consumer who owes a debt. Collectors constantly call me about this family member. Even after I tell them that I will not get involved in the situation, they continue to call me. Collectors should be required to stop contact with family members with a simple verbal request from the family member.

Thanks for your suggestion, anonymousme. Does anybody else have the same issue that anonymousme mentioned? Does anybody agree or disagree with this suggestion and why?

I agree. I have been harassed for years (after getting a new cell phone number) from debt collectors calling for someone else. I presume it is the person who had my phone number before me. No matter how many times I tell them that they have the wrong number, they just keep calling over and over.

sky 310b I made a comment below and would like to know how to make them stop calling me for my deadbeat kids debt.I tell them either I will pass on the info or that I have no contact info for them. Only one collector took me off their list.I am still being harrassed by 10 others.I am being forced to drop my land line which I have had for 40 years to get away from them.It really bugs me because I have a near perfect score of 797 .

Yes. I fell onto hard times during a divorce and found out a few years ago that my dad (whom I haven't lived with for 20+ years) receives so many debt collection calls for me every day he quit answering his home phone. This is unacceptable. We cannot even figure out how they got his phone number because I never lived at that address at any point while I had those credit cards and he never co-signed any loans or credit cards with me. The only connection we can come up with is that my stepmom co-signed a short term furniture loan for me 20 years ago when I was just out of college and that maybe somehow her name is tied to my credit report in some way--although I've never seen it on my credit reports. This is now 6 years after I went through my divorce and he told me a few months ago he still gets several calls per week for me from debt collectors. Personally, I don't think they should be allowed to call ANY number for more than 3 months without successful contact with the debtor. Clearly, they don't have proof they've got the right number and all they're doing by calling the same unverified number for 6 years is harrassing an innocent party.

I guess I should also have clarified in my previous comment that I have made attempts to deal with creditors directly if I know who they are and who they claim to be representing but my personal perception is they PREFER to continue contacting 3rd parties because they hope I'll just pay them to avoid the public humiliation. And in regards to a comment I read here that creditors can call a 3rd party again if they have a reasonable belief that the person knows how to contact the debtor, I disagree with that entirely. First of all, I'm not aware of any law that compels a 3rd party to provide current contact information for a debtor, so even if they do know where that debtor is, they don't deserve to be harassed daily for months or years as punishment for not offering up that information. Many people don't want to be involved and no law that I know of says they have to if they aren't a party to the debt. Secondly, there is no clear and concise way I know of that a creditor can prove what was a reasonable belief. That this person is a parent of the debtor??? My in-laws have no idea how to reach my sister-in-law because she wants it that way. They haven't spoken in 3 years and I don't see that changing. You can't assume that certain relatives MUST know where a debtor is.

Reply to Dazed and Abused:

This is an awesome suggestion! Your suggestion "I don't think they should be allowed to call ANY number for more than 3 months without successful contact with the debtor" is spot on! And I can't believe that no one else has ever suggested this before. 3 months (or whatever an appropriate time limit is) would reduce the constant harassment that I and many other innocent parties receive. This morning I received an illegal phone call from a collector at 6:17 AM with a spoofed phone number for a person that I have never known and I have told these collectors this several times already. They have the wrong number. And I am tired of this. The CFPB should absolutely implement a rule that forces unsuccessful contact to 3 months.

With today's technology, the debt collector or creditor should not only record the conversation, but provide the recording to the consumer via an email link as well as to a repository within the FTC / CFPB in via an email link. This way everything is documented. This would curb the verbal abuses and threatening attempts some rogue collectors practice. If a dispute is made by the consumer over a debt, they can document the call, yet the debt collector or creditor cannot provide thier copy of the call, then the debt is CLEARED. That will force the debt collectors and creditors to obey the law. This is an easy process to implement given today's technology.

Thank you for your comment bvolger, other commenters have endorsed it as being a good idea. Currently, whether you can record a phone call with or without the consent of one or both parties is determined by state law. CFPB doesn’t have legal authority over absolutely every aspect of debt collection, and rules about collection litigation are a complicated mix of state law and federal law. But as CFPB moves to the next stage (coming up with specific proposals for new rules), it will be carefully considering what commenters say here. Do you have any experiences with debt collectors that you would like to share? You may want to comment on this issue page: Questions about phones & mobile phones in debt collection.

I don't think it matters whether a collector used a alias or not. It's just a name. If it is used constantly

I have a common last name, and for about three years I was bombarded with collection calls for other individuals with my last name and first initial. I finally changed my phone listing from my initials to my nickname and have had only collection call since.
I am an elderly retiree. I have no car loan or mortgage. I pay all my bills on time, and I don't carry balances on my credit cards.
No debt collector has ever admitted to me that they got my number out of the phone but, but that's what they're doing.
I would like to see every debt collector tell the individual they are calling the source of their information.
I now have a long list of people with debts in collection. Since I'm not a debt collector, I don't believe that I have a legal obligation not to reveal their names. I do, however, believe that I have a moral obligation not to do so.
Please find a way to keep debt collectors from harassing innocent people.
Thank you.

Corrections: Only one collection call since I changed my phone listing.
No debt collector has ever admitted to me that they got my number out of the phone book.

Cathysceebs, welcome to Regulation Room and thank you for sharing your story. To fix bad debt collection practices, CFPB wants to know how to make practices better. When you told these collectors you weren't who they were looking for, did some of them fix the issue better than others? CFPB also has a number of questions and ideas about harassment and unlawful debt collection practices that could relate to the experience you had. You can read and talk about what the agency is asking

I had one debt collector in particular who called me a liar when I told him I wasn't the person he was looking for. This was after he violated the FDCPA by calling me at 7:00 on a
Saturday morning. I called them back immediately and spoke with a supervisor who said she'd take me off their hit list. I asked her if she got my number out of the phone book. She claimed that they had not. A few months later, they started in on me again. Obviously they still considered me a liar. I sent them a cease-communication letter with a copy to my state's Attorney General, who has been wonderful in all this.
At that point, I started sending out letters every time I received a collection call, and, other than the one, none ever called me again. But, honestly, why should I have to put up with this sort of thing? At one point I was receiving daily calls from one collector or another.
I can name names, and I have a thick file folder full of copies of my letters and responses to my Attorney General.
It has been a wild ride, and I sure hope it's over. I'm approaching the one-year anniversary of my most recent collection call.
I just wish they wouldn't use the phone book as their primary research tool.
Thank you for providing me this forum.

Only one out of my numerous collectors for my kids took me off their lists after I told them my son hasn't lived with me for over 20 years.Ialso stated he owes me money also.My other 10 collectors keep calling but I quit answering because I recognize their phone numbers.

Only one out of my numerous collectors for my kids took me off their lists after I told them my son hasn't lived with me for over 20 years.I also stated he owes me money also.My other 10 collectors keep calling but I quit answering because I recognize their phone numbers.

I'm in the same situation--get calls about numerous people with my last name and one or the other of my two initials. None of the people being sought are even related to me, as far as I know, much less living with me. I would like to be able to make an official declaration that I have no delinquent debt and that I do not live with anyone who does. I'd be willing to renew the declaration once a year in order to stop receiving these calls that are nothing more than fishing expeditions.

Thank you for joining RegulationRoom, As you mentioned, collectors generally shouldn't be contacting you more than once if you aren't the person they're looking for and you don't know where that person is. Collectors are, however, allowed to call you again if they "reasonably" believe that you gave an incorrect or incomplete reply the first time they called, and that you now know where the person of interest actually is. Do you have suggestions on how CFPB can define when it is and isn't reasonable for a collector to believe someone now has correct contact information for the debtor?

Collectors are not calling me repeatedly because they don't believe me. They are calling me repeatedly because there are so many people with the same last name as me and one of my initials. It is just as annoying to get frequent calls about different individuals as it is to get frequent calls about the same individual.

Definitely abuse with this including calling other people when they have the alleged debtor's number to begin with. Not removing people from the do not call list when they ask to not call again. Answering machine messages that should have removal information before any message script is left by the collector. Currently it's this message is for ________, if you're not __________ please do not listen. Have a toll free number provided up front where the number is removed from calls without further questions.

There was another debt collector that went after me a second time. First they placed me on their hit list trying to get me to pay the debt of a man with my last name and first initial. I told them that they were contacting the wrong person. Then, several months later, they went after me again, this time looking for a woman with my last name and first initial. After the second round, I send them a cease-communication letter, and they haven't called me again.

The consumer should be allowed to record all calls for proof of conversation with collectors. And once a collector received a notice to not contact a debtor at their workplace it should be required that they do not even for "location"

I can understand 1 call. But thats it! And they better not talk a out my debt. But I can see them wanting to make sure they have the right number by verifying with a relative or neighbor. Especially with that ridiculous FOTI thing they say on my voicemail.

"But I can see them wanting to make sure they have the right number by verifying with a relative or neighbor. "
Potential for abuse. Here comes your neighbor knocking telling you he's getting calls looking for you. The same with family members makes holiday gatherings fun since it's clear it's a debt collector doing some location acquisition.

I agree with anoymousme, I am constantly called up to 5 times a day by numerous collectors for my kids bills. Why should we have to bothered.I gave my kids the message but they ignore it.They do not have a land line so they call me!!!On NEWYEARS I am dropping my land line which I have had for 40 years just to be rid of these pests! How long are parents responsible for deadbeat children.

Welcome to RegulationRoom Sky310b and thank you for commenting. Since this sounds like a problem you're still facing, you may want to go to CFPB's complaint page. CFPB wants to know more about personal experiences. Will you share more details with us? What do you think CFPB should do to fix this problem? You may also want to read and comment on CFPB's questions about repetitive calls, which is the sixth section on the Questions about phone & mobile phones in debt collection post.

Someone who lived at my address, more than 30 years ago had a debt with Household Finance. We get letters that we return "Addressee Unknown" and phone calls. Finally I called one number back and told them that the person they looked for wasn't there. That law firm stopped robo-calling but a few months later a new one started up. Records should convey when debts are sold from collection agency to collection agency. Why should I have to go through all that a second time?

I also think debt collectors should be prohibited from using the address to get a phone number after 2 years. This debt was more than 30 years old -- why do they think anyone who knew here would still live there?

I googled the woman's name. I found out on the first search that she lives about 10 miles from here. If I can find her that easily why can't a debt collector, who stands to gain something, be bothered to do a little research?

Welcome to RegulationRoom and thank you for sharing your story, Ginny Blum. Since you talked about conveying records from one collection agency to another, you may be interested in CFPB's questions about tracking and transferring information on the topic page Making sure debt collectors & buyers have information about the debt.

I have been getting calls for a Hispanic gentleman with the same phone number as me in a different area code for years. Every time I tell them that I have no clue who he is and that I would like them to stop calling my number they assure me that they will get it fixed but then I hear from them again a few weeks later.

Ask these questions each time you read a comment.
Would you want to be paid for a debt owed to you?
Do you believe someone who agrees to pay a debt should be held accountable for the debt?

Keep in mind that there are businesses or entities that allow people to receive credit for things they do not have money for at the moment. The business or entity, in good faith, extends credit to the consumer with the intent to receive payment at a later date.
The business or entity was provided contact information by the consumer that it will use to collect or pass along to a collection agency to use to collect. The consumer can list whatever numbers or information they want and the business or entity must consider it to be truthful. Often the only way to determine if the information is accurate is to make a phone call. I’ve received these calls myself.
Depending on how much debt and how many business or entities have extended credit may be a factor on how often third parties are contacted.
I do believe that collection agencies that violate the law are not good for anyone. However, I pay my bills and would expect that everyone should be responsible for paying their bills. Much of the discussion has nothing to do with weather the bill is owed but how the contact was made.
Have you been harmed by a phone call? No
Has the business or entity been harmed by the debt not being paid? Yes
Have those of us that due pay our bills been harmed by the outstanding debt? Yes

I have been a frequent target of debt collectors and their phone calls for several years. The reason, clearly, is because I have a common last name. I do not have any debts.
First, once a debt collector starts calling me, it is extremely difficult to get rid of them. One outfit called me a liar and kept calling. Another went after me for two different people.
Second, yes, a barrage of collection calls can be harmful. Dealing with debt collectors on a daily basis has taken its toll on my physical and mental health. (I'm an old lady.) It has also made me paranoid about my own finances.

I understand your concern and desire to stop the calls that are not for you. No one should be spoken to with disrespect. Period.
I dislike the fact that there isn’t a clearinghouse of sorts for phone numbers that would help eliminate the needless calls. Of course how would you stop a responsible party from adding their number to the NOT responsible list?
It is also unproductive for collection calls to be made to wrong party consumers. There isn’t a benefit to anyone to spend time making these calls.
There are many rules and regulations to keep collection agencies honest and legal. And there are consequences if they don’t. Do you know of any consequences to someone who gives out a bad phone number, address or even a name?
I think we should all ban together to restore integrity in the world of credit and stop making excuses for people who want to get out of paying.

Welcome to RegulationRoom Jim, and thank you for your comments. In any rules it might propose, CFPB wants to protect consumers from abusive practices while making sure collectors do their work efficiently. How can the agency strike that balance? You may be interested in reading more about CFPB's questions and ideas on the use of phone, robo-dialing, and related issues on our topic page for Questions about phones & mobile phones in debt collection.

I have had my cell phone number for 4 1/2 years; the previous owner of my number had a student loan debt....I cannot get collection agencies to stop calling me! Every time I emphatically tell them I'm not the person in question and the person dutifully "takes me off the list". But in another few months I hear from them (or probably a collector who bought the list) all over again. How can I get them to stop??? I'm familiar with the FDCPA, but I don't think it currently provides a practical solution for me. Is there a cell-phone Do Not Call list?

Hi Rita Caufield. Welcome to RegulationRoom, and thank you for joining the conversation. If you are having trouble with a debt collector calling you, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection bureau, or with the Federal Trade Commission. To help CFPB learn more about debt collection disputes, you may also wish to share more about your experiences with collectors on our topic page about when consumers dispute a debt.

I too am a family member of a consumer who claims to have paid his debt of 12 - 15 years ago, but my husband and I receive two or three calls a day asking for him to call various agencies about a "matter" with a case #. In one instance they said they would be at the door in one hour. This family member has not lived here for about 16 years. Should I answer the phone instead of letting it go to voice mail. Then should I request that they no longer call? They should not be allowed to call anyone other than the debtor who nowadays can be found on the internet!!!

Welcome to RegulationRoom, smrob. Debt collectors are generally not allowed to talk to third parties such as family members. However, FDCPA allows for debt collectors to call people who are “responsible” for a debt, meaning they can call the consumer’s spouse, parent (if the consumer is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator. Another exception to the rule is that debt collectors can call family members to locate the person who owes the money. Collectors are usually limited to only one communication with a person. If you speak to the debt collectors and tell them that this person no longer lives at your address, they are not allowed to call again. CFPB wants to hear about these types of situations. What were some of the specifics of your experiences? Have you ever spoken with these collectors and had them call you again about the same debt? Do they ever try to talk to you about anything other than locating this individual?

About a month after my husband left the military and before we even moved into a new place, a creditor called his parents and told them he was in the military with my husband and had papers that hadn't been signed so he had to get in touch with him. My mother-in-law knew we didn't have a phone yet, so because she thought it was something urgent she gave him our friends number. That collector called the friends number told the friend he was collecting a debt and my husband (not knowing what was told or how he got the number) let the collector know we had just moved and the payment was an oversight. Of course, the collector was trying very hard to get new address, phone, employer, etc but we did not have that yet. The bill was paid, yet they continued to call his parents and the friend after they had new contact info for him. Keep in mind, this was over a late $10 payment. I understand they are trying to collect a debt but doing so by false statements and telling others of the debt should never be allowed.

My question is: if a collector cannot say a consumer owes a debt, then how is they messages saying "this message is an attempt to collect a debt"? Shouldn't they just be allowed to leave a name and contact number?

Someone keeps calling for a person named Sean, who does not live here and I don't know anyone by that name. I tell them they have the wrong number, but they continue to call. They sometimes leave canned messages on my answering machine.

I realize some debtors pretend not to be at the number being called, but these collectors need to verify the information so they don't keep calling the wrong number. I don't know if the debtor gave the wrong number intentionally, or this number was used by someone else before I got it.

It is extremely irritating. And even though the callers do not say they are debt collectors, it is obvious.

Hi louO, welcome to RegulationRoom and thank you for sharing your experience. CFPB provides several sample lettersfor communicating with collectors that you may find helpful. You may also be interested in commenting on CFPB’s suggestions and questions about repetitive calling and voicemails on theQuestions about phone and mobile phones in debt collection topic page.

I would like to see the CFPB address the issue of their "phishing" expeditions , i.e., trolling the phone listings and calling anyone with a similar name. I was listed by my initials, but with a common last name, I was getting daily calls from debt collectors until I switched my listing to a nickname. There are many comments on this site from people having the same problem, so it's obviously a common practice.

For some strange reason, the folks in the phone centers, react badly when I ask them to explain how my phone number ended up being programmed into their robo dialer. The usual response has been to hang up on me.

I would also like to see the CFPB address the issue of repeated calls to the wrong person. If I'm not the person of interest on the first call, then I won't be on any subsequent calls.

In my experience with debt collectors, I have reached the conclusion that their are two reasons for repeatedly calling me: 1. The people in the call centers are trained not to take No for an answer. 2. By calling me repeatedly the debt collector is trying to wear me down and get me to pay a debt that isn't mine just to get them to stop calling.

I think the "unless" part of the rule about contacting a person more than once should be scrapped. They should not be allowed to contact anyone (other than the debtor him/herself) more than once. If the person (usually the innocent family member) they contact to try to locate the debtor is willing to give out contact info, fine. If not, whether they have it or not is beside the point. They should not be forced in the middle. It is not their debt, or in any way their responsibility. And when collectors claim they can't give their name or a return phone number to be passed on because of privacy reasons, how can they expect someone else to share personal contact info with a stranger?

It's not just innocent family members that debt collectors go after, it's also perfect strangers. I have a common last name, no debts, and have been the target of many debt collectors. All of the deadbeats have had my common last name and first initial.
Once a debt collector has me on their hit list, they don't stop calling until I sent them a cease-communication letter. They want me to pay the debt to get them to stop.

Once the consumer is located then nearbys, neighbors, relatives, prior used phone numbers may be abused by collectors to harass and embarrass consumers, or even to compel a relative or other third party to pay the debt. Violations of the FDCPA should be treated as serious breaches of law.

Agreed. There is simply no enforcement and collectors know this.

I received 13 robocalls/voicemails over the span of 2 months for an individual I never even heard of.

Collectors constantly abuse laws concerning phone contacts, and there is no enforcement for violators. Collectors should be limited by law to contacts by mail. These people are bottom-feeders who ignore the law. Cut them off from phone contacts altogether. They have proven again and again over decades that they are scofflaws. No phone contacts. Period.

2|Contacting a consumer's spouse - 6

Agency Proposal

Generally, collectors are allowed to contact the consumer's spouse about the debt. (FDCPA § 805(d)). Should a collector be allowed to contact a spouse if

  • the couple are separated
  • the consumer has gotten a restraining order against the spouse
  • the consumer specifically tells the collector not to contact his/her spouse?

How often are these things likely to occur? Are there other times when the collector shouldn't be able to contact the consumer's spouse? (See the next two subtopics for contacting a surviving spouse)

A different issue is whether collectors contact spouses to falsely say or imply that the spouse is responsible for the consumer's debt. Does this happen--how often? Should there be a federal rule that collectors have to disclose that spouses have no legal obligation to pay the consumer's debt?

Read what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Definition of “Consumer” and FDCPA Examples of Deception.


Commenting is now closed.

This kind of thing is likely determined by family court law in the jurisdiction where the debtor lives. Community property law, divorce or separation agreements and issues of domestic violence laws all come into play in these kinds of circumstances.

Hi bonzarel, thank you for your participation on RegulationRoom. If the debt goes to court, you are right that the spouse’s legal responsibility for that debt may depend on local and state laws. However, for the purpose of collection calls, the FDCPA defines consumer to include the consumer's spouse, parent (if the consumer is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator. CFPB is wondering if they should prevent debt collectors from being able to connect a spouse if the couple is separated, if there is a restraining order, or if the consumer tells the collector not to contact her/his spouse.

If the consumer requests you do not call someone, do not call. This also leads into collector games, such as calling mother/father. brother, sister with sam elast name saying you thought it was their spouse and you were calling about an account...

I dont mind the spouse. I mean shes my wife so I dont see why not. But I dont agree with girlfriends or boyfriends for those who dont have a spouse. Spouse is okay.

My student loan company is giving me a ton of grief about allowing my husband to contact them regarding my student loan debt. I've filled out the same form about four times that is supposed to allow him to talk to them on my behalf but any time they decide that they don't like dealing with him, they pull his authorization (sometimes mid-call) and refuse to talk to him about it. He is never rude with them, he just doesn't put up with the run around my loan company gives me. We never hear the same thing twice from them. Issues that are supposed to be taken care of rarely are and we are constantly told one thing by one rep and something completely different by the next. Is there a way to make it simpler to allow spouses to deal with debt on your behalf and to keep companies from removing that approval on a whim?

Thank you for sharing your story, dnabgeek. If you're having problems resolving this issue with your loan company, you may want to contact CFPB's complaint center. Have others had experience with collectors or creditors refusing to speak with authorized people about the account?

CFPB wants to know more about consumers' experiences with debt collection. You mentioned that you are getting the "run around" from your loan company. Can you share more details about this?

3|After the consumer dies - 3

Agency Proposal

Collectors are allowed to communicate with the “executor” or “administrator” of a consumer’s estate after he/she dies. (FDCPA § 805(d)). But, since the FDCPA was passed, state laws have changed to allow more people (for example, “personal representatives”) to pay a consumer’s debts out of his/her estate.

How often do collectors contact people who aren't "executors" or "administrators" but have legal authority to pay a consumer’s debts out of his/her estate? What is the effect of these contacts? Should there be a new rule that anyone with this authority under state law can be contacted?

Do collectors tell executors or administrators if the consumer had disputed the debt?

What about a surviving spouse? How often do collectors contact the consumer's spouse after he/she dies? How often do surviving spouses pay the debts out of their own pocket? Do collectors state, or imply, that they have to do this? Since it isn't clear that federal law now treats a surviving spouse as a "spouse" who is allowed to be contacted (see previous subtopic), what should the federal rule on this be? (See next subtopic on contacting the spouse of a servicemember who dies.) Should a new rule require collectors to disclose that surviving spouses aren't legally obligated to pay the consumer's debts out of their own pocket?

Read what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Definition of “Consumer” and FDCPA Examples of Deception.


Commenting is now closed.

If surviving spouses signed or agreed to a contract or extension of credit then they are obligated to repay in my opinion. Also, certain states that have community property laws may require a spouse to repay a debt even though they did not sign the contract. I believe the executor or administrator should investigate whether any debt was disputed or possibly fraud. To start they should obtain a credit report for starters regardless whether collectors disclose either way. If a collector knows a service member passed away, then the spouse, executor, administrator should not be contacted and the account closed law or no law as I have seen this type of issue arise over the years and have seen and approved accounts closed in the event a service member passed away.

I agree with the fdcpa law onthe left

A marital spouse is no longer a marital spouse when either martial partner dies. To death do us part. The end is death. A spouse doesn't remarry while still married, but unmarried people will remarry. A divorced spouse or a widowed spouse, may become the spouse of another once remarried. The term spouse, in my opinion, relates to a marriage. Once the marriage is over, the "spouse" is no longer a "spouse."

4|Special issues for servicemembers - 4

Agency Proposal

When servicemembers apply for credit, they are sometimes asked for contact information for their commanding officer. They may also be asked to consent to contacting the commanding officer about the debt. How often does this happen? (Does it happen more often than civilian consumers are asked for consent to contact their employer?)

How often do collectors actually contact the commanding officer? Do these contacts harm servicemembers in ways that are different from a collector’s contact with a civilian boss? Should there be federal rules that provide solutions unique to servicemembers?

CFPB has heard that there may be problems with collectors

  • threatening to have a servicemember's security clearance revoked
  • threatening action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for not paying
  • saying or implying that the Servicemember's Civil Relief Act (SCRA) doesn't apply to debt

If any of these happen, how frequent is this kind of deceptive conduct? Would it help servicemembers and their families to require collectors to provide information about rights under the SCRA?

When a servicemember is deployed to a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area, collectors may contact his/her spouse and try to get payment. How often does this happen? It may be difficult for the spouse to communicate with the servicemember about the debt--or the communication may interfere with combat readiness.

If the servicemember dies serving in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area, collectors may contact his/her spouse to try to get payment from the military death gratuity. How often does this happen?

Read what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Servicemember Issues and FDCPA Examples of Deception.


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I remember stories where the C.O. or Sgt Major would call people to the office because they got a call from a business which strongarms the junior troop into paying even if the bill isn't correct/bad quality just to avoid further embarrassment.

another issue is an original business which isn't covered under FDCPA only needs a servicemember's military address (usually their only address), they simple replace the servicemember/customer's name with Commanding Officer on a mailing or use a unit locator and ask for Commanding Officer. Considering some of the businesses located outside of a base that prey on unsophisticated young troops, like a used car lot and it's easy to have more leverage with that troop.

Thanks for your comments CG and welcome. Do you know whether it's common for service members to give debt collectors permission to contact their commanding officers? Can you share more details about what usually happens when commanding officers are contacted?

This is from years back so I don't know if any laws have changed but the FDCPA was already in effect for over a decade. There was no giving or taking away permission to contact your chain of command. If the C.O. is contacted about an enlisted debtor they'll usually have the senior enlisted member for the unit handle it which would be the Sergeant Major for enlisted personnel. The speech the junior troop would hear as he/she are standing at attention is along the lines of I better not see you in here again.

Because this may be an original creditor/local business person and not a debt collector the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply for the servicemember. Even if it does apply with a debt collector, there are many FDCPA violations where the collector doesn't stop calling when asked. Hopefully the servicemember would contact the base JAG office for legal assistance.

5|Authorized users on the consumer's credit card - 7

Agency Proposal

Sometimes collectors contact other authorized users on the consumer's credit card and say or imply that they are responsible to pay the consumer's charges on the card. How often do these contacts happen? Should a new rule require collectors to disclose that authroized users have no legal obligation to pay these charges?

Read what CFPB said in the ANPRM about FDCPA Examples of Deception.


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I believe the original consumer applicant on an account has the right to know if an authorized user is delinquent on her or his payments as it affects the original applicant's credit standing. As for telling authorized card holders about the original account holder's default, I would say this is not a good idea. Many parents provide their kids with a credit card, but would not want the credit card company contacting their kids about the parents' debt.

Make the authorized user pay. Why not? It is so dumb when I tell these collectors "call my brother he charged it" and they say "I cant you are the account holder hes just an authorized user." Seriously?! So old fashioned.

Kiko30, do you have anything constructive to say? Or are all of your comments going to be a "consumer" disguised as a debt collector? If that is the case, don't you have some more debtors to illegally harass?

RegulationRoom provides an environment where people can learn about important agency proposals and discuss them in ways that help the agency make a better decision. Everyone who comments on the site is expected to remain civil and respectful. Also, it’s important to keep in mind the dual purpose of FDCPA: protect consumers and ensure that responsible debt collectors aren’t driven out of business by abusive companies. For collectors joining the discussion, we’d like to enlist you in coming up with ideas for rules that make it easier to tell the bad apples from responsible collectors.

As an "authorized user" who has no access to the actual credit card, my credit rating is suffering because the "account holder" presently, is only able to make the minimum monthly payments. I don't think this is fair and have not been able to get a direct response from anyone to see if card companies can legally do this when they collected no information from me but my name! There was NO FULL DISCLOSURE stating that as only being an "authorized user" said card company would report on my credit report. So what is the legal difference between being an "authorized user" & being the "account holder"

Hi jurnee and welcome to RegulationRoom. CFPB’s proposal is about debt collection. Hopefully, the account holder is making minimum monthly payments and you haven’t gone to collections. You can ask CFPB your question about the difference between authorized user and account holder directly by visiting their website, Ask CFPB. You could also ask CFPB what disclosure is required regarding reporting to CRAs.

I believe Amex handles this the best. The account holder is liable for all charges made by themselves and any authorized users added to the account.

Authorized Users however are given a unique card number and can be held accountable for any charges they make.

6|Parents and others who volunteer to pay a debt - 2

Agency Proposal

Collectors are allowed to talk with parents about the debts of minor children (FDCPA § 805(d)), but the parent of an adult child, or some other family member or friend of the consumer, may contact the collector to settle the debt.

Does this happen often? Should the collector be allowed to assume the consumer has consented to this contact (at least as long as the parent or other third party already knows about the debt and is offering to repay?) Or should the collector have to contact the consumer and get his/her formal consent before discussing the debt with the person offering to pay it?

Read what CFPB said in the ANPRM about Definition of “Consumer.”


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Consumer owing the debt should be contacted about any third party offer to pay their debt. Anyone paying debt for someone else should be required to provide their identity to the creditor and debtor.

Minors are not normally eligible to enter contracts or take on the obligation of credit arrangements, so this would seem necessarily rare. Regardless, every effort should be made and maintained to protect consumers from mistaken disclosure of personal business.

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