In Which We Talk About the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Some More
A friend emailed me today with the following question:
If you don’t have the exact link that you provided, this glossary is really hard to find. Because it’s so difficult to find, is it really sufficient to only list the DCA website (www.nyc.gov/dca) on our letters/ website?
To bring the rest of you up to date, last week I shared that New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs had finally published its glossary of commonly used debt collection terms. And that was important, because NYC DCA's rules (which were also linked in last week's email) had specific language that collection agencies were supposed to have in their letters to NYC consumers, and on their website, if the company does business with NYC consumers.
And then things got weird.
(I'll discuss the bolded question above in the section below. First, we have to get through this mystery.)
1) The Link to the Debt Collection Language rules no longer works. Here it is: https://rules.cityofnewyork.us/sites/default/files/adopted_rules_pdf/notice_of_adoption_-_debt_collection_language_access_2.pdf. If you click it, you'll get a 404 error message.
2) The rules also do not show up on New York City's rules site. If you go to this site (https://rules.cityofnewyork.us/) and search for "language" or "debt" in the Proposed Rules section or the Recently Adopted Rules section, the NYC DCA Debt Collection Language Rules do not show up.
3) The rules are mentioned on a New York City licensing page. You'll find that link here: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/businesses/licenses.page. You'll also notice that the link to the text of the rule is broken on that site, too; but that the FAQ and the report form links both work.
What do we do?
I've reached out to some attorneys, and also to New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs. As soon as I know something, you'll know something. Pinky swear.
What Do You Do When the Rules Are Confusing?
In this segment, we're going to pretend that nothing weird has happened to the NYC DCA Debt Collection Language Rules, and that they're still in effect, even though they've gone missing, like Benji the dog did in the movie Benji Come Home.
The rule explicitly says that this language must appear on your letters and on your website:
(viii) a statement that a translation and description of commonly-used debt collection terms is available in multiple languages on the Department’s website, www.nyc.gov/dca.
Now, I don't know if you've visited www dot nyc dot gov slash dca, but I'll spoil it a little if you haven't: that glossary isn't mentioned on the home page at all. So, sending a consumer to that site to access the glossary doesn't actually get the consumer to the glossary promised.
So maybe you click on Consumers at the top of the page, because you're pretending to be a consumer and want to see where that glossary is. And if you did, you will have noticed, as I did, that nowhere in the Consumer section is there any mention of debt collection, or a glossary of common debt collection terms.
So maybe you then click on Businesses, because collection agencies are businesses and maybe that's where you'll find the glossary. And you almost did! But you didn't. The Businesses page has a Licenses section (no glossary, but it does have a broken link to the NYC DCA Debt Collection Language Rule), a Live Chat section (no glossary), and a Resources section. (NO. GLOSSARY.)
By the way, I tried the Live Chat and was told the glossary was at this link: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/businesses/forms-signs-templates.page -- but it's not. Not at all. Here are the steps you need to take, as a consumer, to get to the glossary:
1) Go to www.nyc.gov/dca
2) Click the Consumers tab at the top
3) Click on Get Tips
4) Scroll down and click "learn more" under Credit/Debt
5) Click "Debt Collection and Settlement Services" in the "jump to section for" section
And then, quick as can be, is the glossary.
For those of you with consumers in New York City, you are faced with these options:
Option 1: Follow the letter of the rule (that currently doesn't exist, but might again soon) and use the language just as it appears: "a statement that a translation and description of commonly-used debt collection terms is available in multiple languages on the Department’s website, www.nyc.gov/dca." It may confuse the Least Sophisticated Consumer, and you may wind up on the wrong end of a lawsuit, but you complied literally with the letter of the law.
Option 2: Tweak the language requirement in the rule a little and link consumers directly to the glossary. You're not following the letter of the law at all, and god forbid NYC DCA changes the url of that glossary. And you may wind up on the wrong end of a consumer lawsuit.
The choice is yours! Freedom!