It May Get Easier for Debt Collectors to Text You
If you thought that the barrage of text messages and annoying emails you receive are getting out of hand, brace yourself for the possibility of receiving even more. Except unlike many of the messages you get today, which may advertise useless items, the text messages and emails you may be getting could come from debt collectors.
Protections Currently Given by Consumer Laws
Today, debt collectors rarely text debtors because of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Under the act, text messages can only be used when there is express written consent from a consumer. Even when consent is given, many courts recognize a consumer’s right to withdraw that consent, making any text sent after the withdrawal illegal.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) also prohibits debt collectors from disclosing the details of debts to anybody other than the consumer. This is another deterrent to text messages, because debt collectors have no idea who may see a text sent to a consumer about a debt, thus opening them up to possible lawsuits.
Threats to the Laws
All of these protections may be disappearing soon. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking into making it legal for debt collectors to text you, thus eliminating the right that consumers would otherwise have to sue them for doing this. Proponents of the changes say that laws like the FDCPA have been around since the 70s, and haven’t caught up with today’s technology. Updating these laws to allow debt collectors to text is simply keeping the law current with the times, they say.
Proponents also note that millennials are less likely to use voicemail or phone conversations, and more likely to communicate via text messages.
Of course, we know that debt collectors abuse whatever rights or powers that are given to them. Just last year, over 81,000 complaints about debt collectors were made to Congress.
Part of the reason that the FDCPA exists is to curb debt collectors from abusing how and when they contact consumers. Debt collectors can legally make phone calls, yet routinely call the wrong people, collect on old debts, or make baseless threats to consumers.
Giving them more power, and allowing them to buzz consumers’ phones and invade people’s privacy is a right that will certainly be abused.
This is more likely a power play by banks and debt collectors to allow them to find another way to harass consumers, and strip away powerful consumer statutes like the TCPA or FDCPA. For example, today, express permission is needed for any company to text you. However, the change could provide an express exemption for debt collectors, who could text at will, regardless of consumer permission.
Are you being harassed by debt collectors? Are you receiving texts from companies you did not give permission to text you? The Miami consumer rights lawyers at Jacobs Legal can help you in enforcing your rights.