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CFPB Final Collections Rule: Insight on Limited Content Messages

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The CFPB’s rule for debt collection continues to be analyzed by industry experts. We spoke to one of them – John Bedard, Jr. of Bedard Law Group – to understand one specific part of the rule: Limited Content Messaging.

One of the most anticipated elements of the new rule was the Limited Content Message. The message was designed to be a safe harbor for agencies who want to leave voicemails, but risked third-party disclosure in doing so. The CFPB addressed this by outlining a voicemail that will not be considered a communication – the Limited Content Message.

John walks us through the nuances of the Limited Content Message. If you want to skip to a specific area of the rule, use the timestamps below!

What is a Limited Content Message? [1:31]

As John puts it, the Limited Content Message (or LCM) must include certain information, can include other information, and may not include anything else.

It Must Include: 

  • Business name of the debt collector (which cannot indicate that the company is in the debt collection business.)
  • A request that the consumer reply to the message
  • The name of one or more people the consumer can contact to reply
  • The telephone number(s) the consumer can use to reply

It Can Include: 

  • A salutation like “Hello”
  • The date and time of the voicemail
  • Suggested dates that the consumer can reply 
  • A statement that if the consumer replies, the consumer can speak to any of the representatives of the company

Will the Limited Content Message Be a Helpful Tool For Collectors? [7:01]

It could be argued that there is no greater gift the CFPB can provide than clarity.

John explains that giving debt collectors certainty and comfort that they won’t be held liable for voicemails left in this regard will inevitably be helpful – but the question still remains whether this voicemail will encourage callbacks. We’ll get to that later.

How Did the CFPB Come Up With this Message? [8:01]

Why is this a lawful message?  The CFPB outlines why this voicemail message specifically is not considered a communication.

Under the FDCPA, a “communication” is defined as a conversation between a consumer and a collector that conveys information about a debt. Because the Limited Content Message omits all information about a consumer’s debt, it technically cannot be considered a communication.

This means that collectors will not be required to make the disclosures (the Mini Miranda) that come with a “communication,” and the CFPB allows collectors to make contact with a consumer, without it being a communication.

What If Your Agency Name Signals That You Are a Collector? [11:27]

John explains that words like “Recovery” and “Collections” might suggest to a consumer that your company has a relation to the business of debt collection, and could result in an accidental third party disclosure.

The bureau recommends creating a DBA (“Doing Business As,”) then filing and registering it with the state you operate in.

Agencies can go as far as to change their name, but it’s difficult to quantify the effect that would have on more established agencies’ brand recognition.

Does This Have Anything to Do with Omnichannel Outreach? [15:00]

The bureau created the Limited Content Message to solve the problem of voicemails left by collectors. It was not intended to solve any problems (existing or in the future) having to do with texting and emailing.

Texts and emails that use the LCM would still be considered a communication , according to the rule- there is no script or recommended wording for any other form of outreach, besides a mandatory opt-out. John explains, however, that in theory, there is no reason why a message in any form would be considered a communication if there is still no information or conveyance of a debt.

John explains that the key thing to remember with omnichannel outreach is that if a collector ignores consumer preference, it’s a clear violation of law. It’s impossible to predict whether there will be more clarification in this realm, he says, unless it becomes clear there is a need for it, or omnichannel outreach rules start to be abused.

How Effective Will the Limited Content Message Be? [20:08]

John and our hosts discussed whether, at the end of the day, the message will be effective in aiding conversations between consumers and collectors. He explains that there was little research done by the CFPB to study the language of the Limited Content Message and how that lack of research might contribute to its effectiveness.

He urges agencies to begin to create benchmarks for how the LCM does, or does not, result in callbacks, rather than just blindly using the script and hoping it leads to a conversation about a consumer’s debt.  By segmenting lists and observing the results of the LCM in “small batches”  – looking at callback and RPC rates – will shed light on whether the LCM is actually effective.

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