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Update Added 3/30/2020 at 3:48PM Eastern: John Bedard of Bedard Law Group—and member of the Consumer Relations Consortiums' Legal Advisory Board—reached out directly to the Department of Insurance to clarify the application of this bulletin. According to Angela Hatchell, Deputy Commissioner, Agent Services Division:
The statute specifically includes collection agencies as subject to provision 2. Should the consumer request a collection agency should defer ANY collection activity.
North Carolina's Department of Insurance issued a bulletin on Friday, March 27, that pertains to specific types of entities, including collection agencies, governed by Chapter 58 of North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS). The Insurance Commissioner enacted the emergency provisions of NCGS 58-2-46, which requires entities covered by this particular statute to give consumers the option to defer payments that are due during the disaster proclamation for 30 days.
NCGS 58-2-46 states:
[Entites] subject to this Chapter shall give their customers who reside within the geographic area designated in the proclamation or declaration the option of deferring premium or debt payments that are due during the earlier of (i) [the time period covered by the proclamation or declaration or (ii)] the time period prior to the expiration of the Commissioner's order declaring subdivisions (1) through (4) of this section effective for the specific disaster, as determined by the Commissioner. This deferral period shall be 30 days from the last day the premium or debt payment may be made under the terms of the policy or contract.
The bulletin states that all entities subject to NCGS 58-50 Part 4—which refers to health benefit plan external review—"shall allow consumers, whose request may have been impacted by the disaster, additional time for their requests to be received and reviewed."
One thing to note here is that the emergency statute requires collectors and other covered entities to give consumers the option to defer, but it does not mean that collection efforts must stop or that there is a blanket deferral on all payments due. However, agencies and firms should adjust their collection communications to offer this option in order to be in compliance.