One morning in the near future, you might reach for your phone to check your Facebook or Instagram messages and find a demand from a debt collector. New regulations that will go into effect later this year under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act will allow such communications.
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, or FDCPA, is a law from the 1970s that governs how third-party debt collectors can try to collect debts. A “third-party” debt collector is a person or entity whose business is collecting debts owed to other people or entities. They are commonly called collection agencies. They might own the debt, having purchased it from the original creditor, or they might be working on assignment from the original creditor. The FDCPA does not govern the collection of debts by the original creditor.
Rules under the FDCPA haven’t been updated in years, and say nothing about trying to collect through social media, because social media didn’t exist at the time of the FDCPA. Current regulations under the FDCPA are limited to communication methods that existed in the 1970s, such as telephone and mail. In many cases, they don’t cover email, except by analogy to regular mail. The new regulations are designed to address what they call “limited content messages,” such as texts or DMs on messenger apps such as Facebook Messenger and Instagram.
If debt collectors attempt to contact debtors by social media, there are rules they must follow, just like when using traditional methods. These rules include:
- Debtors have the right to “opt out,” meaning they can tell the debt collector not to contact them on social media.
- All communications must not be visible to anyone who can see your “public” page. For example, commenting on a post you made or writing on your Facebook wall is not permitted.
- Debtors may specify the times when debt collectors can contact them, just like with current regulations that specify during which hours debt collectors may call on the phone.
- Debtors may specify which mediums are permissible to use and which are not.
- Consumer advocates recommend not posting anything a person wouldn’t want a creditor to see. Making an announcement about a new job that’s going to have you rolling in dough is probably not a good idea if you owe money and are having trouble paying.
Many debt collectors push the boundaries of what’s allowed and what’s prohibited. The FDCPA provides remedies in the form of damages that are available to consumers if a debt collector violates the Act. If you have debt problems, contact us here, or call or text (801) 413-3708, or email email@example.com.