Text messaging is an easy, quick, convenient, and effective means of communication for everyone.
Except debt collectors.
Texting with consumers opens a deep gulf of compliance issues, regulatory hassles, and pitfalls that are almost certain to end in lawsuits.
While there isn’t a clear answer, yet, as to how a collection agency can communicate with a consumer, there are plenty of clear examples as to how a collection agency should not communicate via text with a consumer.
For instance, lying to consumers is not a terrific idea.
The FTC recently slammed three collection agencies whom it accused of deceptive practices against consumers.
Here are the three examples given:
“YOUR PAYMENT DECLINED WITH CARD ****-****-****-5463 . . . CALL 866.256.2117 IMMEDIATELY.”
“YOUR PAYMENT FOR $[AMOUNT] IS SCHEDULED FOR [DATE]. CALL 866.257.2117 WITH ANY QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS.”
“YOUR PAYMENT OF $[AMOUNT] IS SCHEDULED FOR [DATE]. CALL 866.257.2117 IF YOU WANT TO MAKE YOUR PAYMENT EARLY.”
There are a calvacade of reasons why these texts are Bad News Bears for those collection agencies:
1) It’s likely the information in these texts is manufactured.
2) It’s likely the consumer didn’t request or agree to those initial payment schedules
3) It’s unlikely that these agencies had any record of prior express consent in the file, allowing for communication via a mobile device.
4) I don’t see any debt collection disclosures in these messages, do you?
While clairty with regards to text communications may be on the way, they’re not here now. The best practice is: don’t text consumers.