Earlier this year, the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) proposed to amend its rules relating to debt collectors. Part of the lengthy proposed amendment sought to prohibit debt collectors from sending text messages without specific consent from the consumer. In other words, debt collectors would be required to communicate with consumers only via letter or telephone until a consumer provided direct consent to receive text messages.
Earlier this month, the Consoumer Relations Consortium (CRC) submitted comments to the DCWP regarding the unintended negative consequence of the proposed updates to the rule. Legal Advisory Board (LAB) member Abigail Pressler of Ballard Spahr prepared the CRC's comments.
In its comment, the CRC explained that a direct consent requirement for debt collection text messages will cause the following unintended harm to consumers:
- Frustration and Annoyance - a direct consent requirement ignores a consumer's previously expressed choice to receive communications about their account through text messages. Modern consumers expect a seamless customer service experience no matter who handles their account. A direct consent requirement will force consumers who have already chosen to receive communications via text to endure unwanted calls and letters unless they contact the debt collector to opt-in to text messages. This redundant, inconvenient process repeats with each new collector.
- Loss of Convenience and Privacy - Phone calls are noisy and unpredictable. Further, until a consumer specifies otherwise, they take place on the caller's schedule, regardless of what the recipient is doing at the time. Conversely, text messages are quiet and private and a consumer can respond when convenient.
- Reduced Accessibility for vulnerable consumers - The deaf community relies on electronic communication because it is more convenient than TTY/VOC technology. Text messages allow blind consumers to use an electronic reader at their convenience and where they believe it is appropriate to hear a message, whereas letters must be read by a third party and phone calls from unknown numbers may not be picked up. Neurodiverse consumers may prefer text messages which they can reply to on their own timetable over phone calls for a variety of reasons. Introducing a direct consent requirement will make it harder for each of these groups of consumers to receive important information.
The CRC concluded its comment by noting that putting additional hurdles in a consumer’s path to communicating with a debt collector puts them at an increased risk of negative credit reporting and litigation.
You can read the full comment to the DCWP here.
Learn more at www.crconsortium.org.