The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill over the weekend that makes some rather specific changes to the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act relating to debt collection, including a codification of abusive call volume. The bill previously passed the state’s Senate and will now be sent to the Governor.
SB 542 passed the West Virginia House by a healthy margin, 61-34, in a vote that was mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting the reform effort and Democrats opposed. The action was taken on the last legislative day of the current session.
The bill had previously passed the Senate unanimously. The Senate did have to pass a concurrence of the House version late Saturday and that passed with only three votes against.
The legislation updates the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act. It was supported by financial service interests in the state, including the Community Bankers of West Virginia. Most significantly, it doubles the amount creditors can charge consumers on a delinquent account and spells out the number of allowed debt collection calls and contacts in a week.
Much of the new language brings West Virginia law into sharper agreement with the FDCPA. For example, there is a provision for allowing collectors – both third party and in-house at originating creditors – to contact third parties for location information, so long as it is done in a manner consistent with § 1692b of the FDCPA.
But the bill also goes further than the FDCPA in certain cases.
Debt collectors in West Virginia will be allowed no more than 30 calls to a person in a week and 10 telephone conversations per week. The bill strikes the previous language of “repeatedly or continuously” from present law. A late amendment offered by House Democrats would have reduced those allowances to five calls per week and two conversations, but it was withdrawn the day before passage.
The new law also slightly changes the definition of a communication in certain places by replacing “The placement of telephone calls” with “Engaging any person in telephone conversation.”
The bill also allows creditors to charge consumers a $30 late fee for delinquencies on an account, doubled from the previous $15.
If the Governor signs the bill, the law will go into effect on September 1, 2015.