The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says that debt collectors are now allowed to text, email, and message people on social media. But don’t worry—the bureau insists it’s still illegal for collection agencies to actively harass someone over a debt they owe. (Right.)
Debt collectors were previously limited to contacting people via phone or snail mail. They were also prohibited from calling someone more than seven times in seven days, contacting people related to the debt holder, and reaching out to someone’s employer. Some of those restrictions apply to the new contact methods, too, but not all of them extend to these platforms.
The CFPB doesn’t limit the number of times a collection agency can text, email, or direct message someone on social media, for example. Instead they are required to identify themselves as debt collectors, give people a way to opt out of receiving messages on a particular platform, and refrain from using public communications methods to contact someone.
There is some good news. It seems the restrictions on when debt collectors are allowed to contact people—between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time—apply to these new forms of communication as well. Collection agencies will also be prohibited from calling someone about a particular debt within seven days of having a phone conversation about it.
The CFPB says debt collectors must offer, “in each message, a simple way to opt out of receiving further communications from them on that social media platform.” But as Consumer Reports notes, it doesn’t explain how that will work.