Debt collectors can now text, email, and send direct messages on social media to borrowers, according to a new rule approved by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
While the new guidelines establish the ways in which debt collectors can use email, text messages, social media and other modern communication methods to contact borrowers, it also allows borrowers to limit the ability of debt collectors to contact them via these platforms.
The 1977 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act established parameters that prevent abusive and unfair debt collection practices. According to the update, collectors will be required to identify themselves to consumers and give them to the option to opt out of being contacted online.
Messages online will also not be allowed to be posted publicly, though collectors will be able to send "friend" and "follow" requests to the consumer, so long as they accurately identify themselves.
Presently, collectors have violated federal law if they "place telephone calls to a particular person in connection with the collection of a particular debt more than seven times within seven consecutive days or within seven consecutive days of having had a telephone conversation about the debt."
If consumers thinks a collector is violating the law, they can file a complaint with the federal agency – though the new rules do not establish how often a collector can approach a consumer online.
"With the vast changes in communications since the FDCPA was passed more than four decades ago, it is important to provide clear rules of the road," said former CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger. "Our debt collection rulemaking provides limits on debt collectors and provides clear rights for consumers. With this modernized debt collection rule, consumers will have greater control when communicating with debt collectors."