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7 in 7 – Another Reason to Use Email and SMS as a 1st Party Collector

May 13, 2021

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    A quick, all-in-one overview of the FDCPA rule changes, who’s enforcing them, and the best steps to prepare for them

    By Anne Priester and Shawn Murray

    For years we’ve talked about the need to expand outreach strategies to include email and SMS. Put aside the fact that your customers want to communicate through these channels, and the increased collection rates and operational efficiencies you would likely experience. Now FDCPA changes provide another reason that will make dialing customers more restrictive: CALL CAPS.

    The CFPB changes to the FDCPA are due to be implemented November 30th, (unless delayed by 60 days per the recent NPRM). Included in the changes are call caps restricting the number of attempts allowed. Here’s an overview of what they may mean for 1st party collections and how to prepare for them.

    7 in 7 Rule Breakdown

    Debt Collectors should not attempt to call a consumer more than seven times in a rolling seven-day period “per debt” (unless it is a student loan – in which case it is per consumer).

    • The rule’s “rebuttable presumption” means that seven or fewer calls in a seven-day period does not constitute harassment.

    What is a Rebuttable Presumption?

    Seven or fewer calls is presumed lawful, more than seven calls are presumed unlawful but either way the presumption can be rebutted with evidence of harassment. 

    • Voicemails, including ringless voicemails, count as call attempts, as do limited contact messages (Note: Limited contact messages are specific to voicemails but not to text or email.)

    CFPB Sample Limited Contact Message

    Hi, this is Robin Smith calling from ABC Inc. It is 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, September 1. Please contact me or any of our representatives at 1-800-555-1212 today until 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, or any weekday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. 

    • Calls made at the request of the consumer within seven days of receiving the request from the consumer do not count as call attempts.
    • If a right party contact is made, the collector cannot attempt to collect on that debt again for another seven days.
    • Emails and texts are subject to the FDCPA’s time of day and inconvenient place restrictions.
    • You can still run afoul of this rule if any element of your collection process is found to be with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass.

    Whether under FDCPA or UDAAP, the CFPB cares how you attempt to contact a consumer to collect a debt.

    6 Steps to Prepare for Compliance

    Preparations are underway for rolling seven-day tracking and reporting on call attempt frequency (by debt and by consumer). Industry leaders have already incorporated email and SMS outreach strategies. If you haven’t started to prepare, here are your next steps:

    1. Build a business case to demonstrate the value digital channels will bring to your organization and secure needed project dollars. Sometimes it is hard to know where to start so we developed a calculator to help. With a quick risk-free meeting and some data sharing, you’ll be set up with the numbers to build your case.
    2. Assess your digital readiness and ability to implement a multi-channel solution. 80% of attendees at our recent collections tech webinar said that they were most concerned with knowing tech functionalities and how to integrate them. Watch the 30-minute recording here to learn how to assess your readiness.
    3. Identify which vendor solution is the best fit for your organization and execute an RFP. Use these tips to help you select your best-fit vendor.
    4. Phase in an email and SMS collection outreach strategy to complement existing non-digital strategies and improve performance.
    5. Implement ‘channel preference’ strategies so that each attempt is the best attempt and results in the best performance across channels.
    6. Confirm reliability of your process for evaluating cell phone numbers every 60 days to ensure that the numbers haven’t been reassigned.

    Don’t Hesitate – Start Your Digital Strategy Today

    Between regulatory compliance and customer preference, your only action is to build a multi-channel communication strategy. It’s time to get in the digital game.

    Bridgeforce has worked with multiple clients to help them respond to the new debt collection environment by:

    • Building business cases and assessing digital readiness (See how Bridgeforce helped a client design a strategic plan for a comprehensive digitalization program)
    • Preparing and managing RFP processes to select best-fit technology solutions
    • Improving online self-service portals
    • Modeling the effect of reduced outbound call volume on delinquency and charge-off
    • Implementing attempt tracking and reporting
    • Implementing alternative channels of communication including email, text, and chat
    • Building strategies for incorporating email and text with phone
    • Mining client collection data to analyze and optimize contact strategies

    Contact us. We can help you accelerate your collections readiness.

    Sources:

    1. Consumer Finance Monitor
    2. JDsupra
    3. insideARM
    4. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau