A process that started seven years ago seems to be nearing its conclusion. Yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) posted its Spring 2020 Rulemaking Agenda. Buried under a long list of things on the CFPB's plate is a note of tremendous importance for the industry: the long-awaited final rule for debt collection is scheduled for release in October 2020.
Interestingly, just last week the CFPB issued a notice in the Federal Register that it will be conducting “cognitive interviews” to test the effectiveness of and validate the performance of the CFPB’s model collection validation notice.
The main goal of the interviews will be to determine how consumers locate and use the information in the notice. The two specific issues the CFPB will focus on are:
(1) Whether the consumer can locate and use important information effectively, such as information about the debt, information about the consumer's rights, and information about how the consumer may respond if they so choose; and
(2) How consumers view and respond to paper and electronic versions of the model validation notice.
The Federal Register notice did not include the specific model validation disclosure it will be testing, so it's difficult to tell if it is identical to the model notice from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that was issued in May 2019 or if the CFPB made changes to that notice.
The CPFB is requesting comments on this new round of testing. The comments are due by July 29. The questions to be commented on are those typically included for information collection, such as whether the information is necessary, the burden of collecting the information, ways to enhance the information collection process, and ways to minimize the burdens of the collection process.
Since the cognitive interviews will likely start no earlier than August after comments are submitted, it makes me a little skeptical of the October 2020 final rule release date. This wouldn't be the first time that some portion of the debt collection rule was delayed. However, I'll choose to be an optimist. Getting these rules finalized is a great first step for the industry to finally having some modern clarity on what feels like an ancient statute.