By Charlene Crowell
A new survey asked likely voters across the country what they thought of a proposed debt collection rule. The response was strong and broad opposition.
Proposed earlier this year by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Kathleen Kraninger, the rule would authorize debt collectors to expand how often consumers could be contacted as well as the ways such contacts could be made: email, text messages, and more.
Conducted by Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, the poll was jointly commissioned by the Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) and the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). The results, released on September 11, found stark opposition by consumers to regulatory reforms announced by the CFPB. Consumers are strongly united in wanting more and better protection in this area of financial regulation.
One in five poll participants were contacted by a debt collector in the past 12 months for different types of debt – including medical. Consumers of color, lower-income consumers and military families were contacted at higher rates. More than one in three Black consumers (34%) or consumers with incomes less than $50,000 (33%), were contacted. Among Latinx consumers, nearly half or 48% were contacted.
Likely voters were most concerned about three specific changes included in the CFPB debt collection proposal:
- 76% opposed allowing debt collectors to leave messages for people in places that are not private;
- 74% opposed allowing debt collectors to contact consumers by private direct messaging on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter; and
- 73% opposed allowing debt collectors to phone people as often as seven times a week for each debt in collection.
“It should not surprise any of us that Americans don’t support government-sanctioned harassment by debt collectors via phone, email, or text,” said AFR Senior Policy Counsel Linda Jun. “And yet that’s exactly what the Kraninger CFPB is proposing. The agency needs to withdraw this plan and come up with one that actually protects consumers.”
The real irony with CFPB is that for six years, consumers benefitted from a series of actions that helped 29 million consumers to receive nearly $12 billion in restitution and/or forgiveness. Additionally, multiple public forums held across the country on a variety of issues gave consumers and all stakeholder interests meaningful opportunities to help shape public policy developments. Research released by the CFPB have documented the harm of abusive debt collection practices and shown the rippling consequences of financial services practices as large as mortgages and as small as payday loans.
Under the Trump Administration, a consistent and focused deregulation effort has been underway to turn CFPB into a toothless tiger. It’s almost as if CFPB now stands for Corporate Financial Protection Bureau. Rather than living up to its name, CFPB eschews consumers and defers to companies and their preferences as to what financial regulation should look like.
The Administration has also repeatedly emphasized consumer information and education while predatory lenders pick the pockets of unsuspecting consumers. The error in this approach is that being aware of what should occur will not and cannot change punitive practices that earn billions of dollars for the corporations abusing consumers.
These actions are particularly suspect when one considers that debt collection complaints have been among the chief consumer complaints filed at both the CFPB and the Federal Trade Commission. Under CFPB’s first director, the agency filed more than 25 federal enforcement actions against debt collectors and creditors that deliver $300 million in restitution and another $100 million in civil penalties due to deceptive and abusive debt collection practices.
From weakening the Bureau’s Office of Fair Lending, to rewriting the long-awaited payday lending rule that required lenders to ensure that borrowers can afford to repay these small-dollar loans that come with big costs, businesses and corporations are being coddled while consumers remain caught in harassing debt collection practices and debt trap loans.
“Bad policies from Washington are often the brainchild of people who aren’t personally impacted by them,” said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Allied Progress, a consumer advocacy organization. “Maybe spanning the spammer-in-chief at the CFPB will help them realize the massive invasion of privacy that are inviting with this plan…Congress should get prepared to hold them accountable.”
Speaking for the Center for Responsible Lending, Melissa Stegman, a Senior Policy Counsel said:
“The poll is clear – Americans don’t want CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger to give debt collectors a license to harass and intimidate consumers,” said Stegman. “A consumer-first debt collection rule should protect people – and particularly people of color and active duty military members, veterans and their families – from time-barred ‘zombie debt’.”
Government is supposed to be ‘for the people’– not for corporations.
Charlene Crowell is the Communications Deputy Director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at [email protected].