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What is Going on with Louisiana?

 

It's confusing and a lot, but we'll try to make sense of it with a timeline and additional info. But here at the top I want to tell you: you are right to be confused. None of this was communicated well.

  • 13.8 billion years ago, the universe happened.
  • 21 August 2020, Louisiana declares its first Laura-related State of Emergency. (Side-note: I went to school with a very mean girl named Laura. She's an anti-masker now, per her Facebook, which I really need to stop checking in order to fully heal.)
  • 27 August 2020, Hurricane Laura makes landfall in Louisiana.
  • 28 August 2020, Louisiana issues a State of Emergency for Coastal Louisiana, "the Sportsman's Paradise." Neither of these SOEs mention telephone solicitation restrictions.
  • 2 September 2020, ACA sends an email alert: "Update: Louisiana Call Restrictions Not in Effect During State of Emergency."
  • 3 September 2020, Louisiana issues an amendment to its Laura-related State of Emergency, stating that "Unless otherwise provided in this order, these provisions are effective from Thursday, August 27, 2020 to Sunday, September 20, 2020, or as extended by any subsequent Proclamation, unless terminated sooner." Still no mention in the SOE of telephone solicitation restrictions.
  • 3 September, the Louisiana Public Service Commission updates its status: "Mandatory EOC Presence Required - Comply with Solicitation Prohibitions." It includes this statement: "The prohibition to telephonic solicitations will remain in effect until the EOC releases the LPSC from this mandatory reporting status."
  • This part is a little out of order, but it makes sense narratively. Louisiana, in October of 2006, published Docket No. R-29617 “Do Not Call” Listing for Louisiana Residential Telephonic Subscribers.
  • Docket No. R-29617 defines "telephonic solicition" as "the initiation of a telephone call or message, via any voice or data communication made by a telephonic solicitor to a residential telephonic subscriber for the purpose of encouraging a sale or rental of or investment in property, consumer goods, or services; or for the purpose of encouraging an extension of credit for property, consumer goods, or services; or for the purpose of obtaining information that will or may be used for the direct solicitation of a sale or rental of or investment in property, consumer goods, or services or an extension of credit for such purposes, or for the solicitation of a contribution to a charitable organization."
  • However, it also goes on to provide exceptions. This is the one that we're interested in: "Although considered telephonic solicitation, exceptions are granted to voice or data communications for the following reasons." Several are listed, but we only need this one: "Primarily in connection with an existing debt or contract, payment or performance of which has not been completed at the time of such call."
  • 3 September 2020, ACA sends an alert correcting its 2 September alert: "Louisiana Call Restrictions Are in Effect During State of Emergency." ACA explains the confusion: "Contrary to the information ACA was initially provided by the Louisiana Public Service Commission, debt collection calls are in fact
    prohibited in the state right now."
  • What had happened was, per ACA: "Headlee’s office told ACA that the Public Service Commission (PSC) posted the wrong statement on its website regarding the state of emergency, and subsequently based an incorrect interpretation provided to ACA stating debt collection calls were not impacted by the state of emergency due to an existing exemption."

Making practical sense of the various agencies in Louisiana and different legislative or regulatory schemes, a logical interpretation follows:

  1. Start with the Louisiana Homeland Security & Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act, R.S. 29:721
  2. 29:721 expects that the Louisiana Public Service Commission ("LPSC") report to Louisiana's Emergency Operations Center or "EOC" that no telephonic solicitor shall engage in any form of telephonic solicitation."
  3. The LPSC has been ordered to report to Louisiana's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness since August 30, 2020 when both Hurricane Laura and Marco were imminent.
  4. Bottom line: until the EOC releases the LPSC from the emergency mandatory reporting status - the prohibition of telephonic solicitations are to remain in effect. Suspending collection calls to Louisiana residents through September 20, 2020 makes good sense.

Where does this leave us? Still uncertain, if you have a high tolerance for risk; and pretty certain, if you don't want to be a test case in a lawsuit.

Louisiana's "Do Not Call" rules for solicitors has that exception for existing debts. (Accounts that you might receive during the State of Emergency should be treated with the "do not call" technique until the State of Emergency is declared over.) If you have a high risk tolerance, and you have consulted with counsel, this may be your strategy.

But I'd encourage you to trash that strategy.

The last thing people need in an emergency is a telephone call asking for money. And, again, I don't know how reliable that cut-out for collection calls is when one gets right down to it. This is a case of "maybe we can, but really we shouldn't."

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