The Association of Credit and Collections Professionals, known as ACA International, has introduced a "blueprint" of policy initiatives that the group says would update the debt collection industry's antiquated practices. Consumers who've missed one or more credit card payments may be interested.
A key goal, mentioned repeatedly in the group's press statement, is the removal of what the group calls "unnecessary impediments to effective, straightforward communications between consumers and debt collectors."
That sounds nice, but in this context, "effective communication" seems to be less about clarity and conciseness and more about debt collectors' freer access to use cellphone calls, email and text messages to pursue payments.
The targets of the blueprint are the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Telephone Consumer Protection Act, two federal laws that are supposed to protect people from harassment. The group wants these laws changed to allow debt collectors to:
- Call consumers' cellphones even when those calls result in per-minute charges paid by the consumers.
- Send email and text messages to consumers without privacy concerns even if a third party might have access to those communications.
- Use autodialers and prerecorded messages to call consumers' cellphones.
And on it goes to notification, verification, documentation, litigation and more.
Some of the ideas have merit, and the group makes some good arguments as to why the laws should be updated.
Still, the Federal Trade Commission last year logged 140,036 complaints about debt collection practices, more than any other industry in the country. ACA International says at least of some of those were inquiries, not gripes.
But again, 140,000? That's a lot of people who went to the trouble to contact a federal agency about how they'd been treated -- or mistreated, depending on your point of view -- by this one industry.
If debt collectors want greater leeway to contact consumers, shouldn't they first do a better job at "effective communication" in the old-fashioned ways?
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau might have an answer.
Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff