On Monday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) re-published a 30-day notice and request for comment on conducting a survey of 8,000 individuals for its research on debt collection disclosures. According to the notice:
The survey will explore consumer comprehension and decision making in response to debt collection disclosure forms. The survey will oversample respondents who have had experience with debt collection in the past.
The Bureau is once again seeking comments on the following:
- Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Bureau, including whether the information will have practical utility;
- The accuracy of the Bureau's estimate of the burden of the collection of information, including the validity of the methods and the assumptions used;
- Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
- Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.
Comments must be received on or before March 6, 2019.
This is not the Bureau’s first rodeo for soliciting comments on a debt collection disclosure survey. The Bureau first issued a 60-day notice and request for comment on a consumer survey in June 2017, resulting in mixed reviews from those providing input. The Bureau then issued a 30-day notice in November 2017, which it quietly withdrew on the day the comments were due.
If the industry was looking for a clear sign that the Bureau is actively working on the debt collection rules, this is it. What types of comments will this current notice elicit? Well, that’s another question.
One of the comments to the initial notice was that it did not contain enough information to provide meaningful comment. Two substantive additions are included in the newest proposal. First, that the Bureau “relies on empirical evidence and rigorous research to improve its understanding of consumer financial markets for regulatory purposes.” Second, that the “survey will oversample respondents who have had experience with debt collection in the past.” The current notice also contained documentation related to the survey, such as sample validation notices.
The real question now is when will the long-awaited debt collection rules be out? In 2018, both the Spring and the Fall rulemaking agendas listed March 2019 as the target. If comments for the survey are due March 6 and results from the survey itself are expected to have a material impact on the forthcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, that leaves less than a month for conducting the survey and issuing the NPRM. On the other hand, if the rules are already written and all that may be necessary are tweaks to disclosures based on the survey, we might get these rules sooner than we think. Or, if the CFPB is contemplating a multi-part rulemaking, we might see disclosures separated from communications.