Facebook Friends Fronting Debt Collectors Draw U.S. Regulation
January 24, 2013
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are considering new restrictions on how debt collectors can use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to contact overdue borrowers. The underlying law for the current debate is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which was implemented in 1978, when the debt-buying industry barely existed. Attorney Billy Howard says that he has seen more aggressive social-media use among debt collectors, including rude postings on someone's account, or pretense as a friendly person to get an alleged debtor’s attention. This year, U.S. regulators are focusing more on the debt collection industry, which generated 180,000 consumer complaints to the FTC in 2011. Credit card issuers like Capital One and JPMorgan Chase also are facing supervision over how they handle debtors. In October, the CFPB announced a $112.5 million settlement with American Express, made partly over claims of improper debt collection practices. In the second quarter, the CFPB will start to field grievances about the industry, using a complaint system that connects federal regulators with the companies to find solutions for consumers.
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