Coast to Coast: the State of Privacy and Compliance in 2023

By on April 20th, 2023 in Compliance, Industry Insights, Webinars
Coast to Coast: The State of Privacy and Compliance in 2023

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. 

Protecting consumer privacy is not an unfamiliar concept in our industry and it’s something that should already be woven into our policies, procedures, and practices. With the rapid increase of state privacy laws across the United States, any company that collects, uses, transmits, or receives consumer data has to stay up-to-date on all related compliance issues.

In a previous webinar, Coast to Coast—the State of Privacy and Compliance in 2023, TrueAccord’s legal experts discussed the newest federal privacy laws and all the related compliance issues. Watch the full webinar on-demand now!

The passage of the FTC’s Safeguards Rule, amending the Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA), has been a big topic in data security conversations across the financial services industry as businesses prepare to be in compliance on or before the extended effective date of June 9, 2023. Meanwhile, several states have actively been considering and passing new legislation requiring additional policies, controls, and practices not only in the data security space but also for data privacy and data breaches. It is important for Chief Information Security Officers, Privacy Officers, and Chief Compliance Officers to stay on top of this legislation, as well as Chief Executive Officers since we have seen many federal and state actions naming the CEO in their individual capacity for failing to properly secure and protect data or to properly delegate these responsibilities to the appropriate persons within their organizations. 

**Please note this article is not legal advice. This is not an exhaustive list of all laws. You should consult a lawyer if you have questions about federal and state data security, privacy or breach laws.

Data Breach Laws

All 50 states have data breach notification laws on the books. In 2022, 19 states considered enhancing their data breach laws.

Those states that passed revised data breach laws, tightened up notification timelines, added additional definitions of what constitutes personal information, and expanded the notification requirements to include additional state agencies. For example, Arizona’s law HB 2146, amending Arizona Revised Statutes section 18-552, not only requires that notification be made to consumers but also to the Director of Arizona’s Department of Homeland Security. If the breach impacts more than one thousand people, then the law requires the notification also be given to the three largest nationwide credit reporting agencies, the attorney general, and now the Director of Arizona’s Department of Homeland Security. 

While most states are shortening the time frame in which a consumer must be notified of a data breach to 45 days or less, some of these laws include exceptions or a short list of situations in which a delay in notification is permissible. For example, Indiana’s revised law, H.B. 1351, amending Indiana Code 24-4.9-3-3, limits a permissible delay in notification three circumstances: (1) when the integrity of the computer system must be restored, (2) when the scope of the breach must be discovered, or (3) when the attorney general or a law enforcement agency asked to delay disclosure because disclosure will impede a criminal or civil investigation, or jeopardize national security.

Both Maryland (H.B. 962, amending Maryland Personal Information Protection Act and section 14-3501 of the Annotated Code of Maryland)and Pennsylvania (S.B. 696, amending the Pennsylvania Breach of Personal Information Notification Act) expanded the definition of “personal information” to include medical and health information, including a definition of “genetic information” in Maryland’s law.

Since the webinar, Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed into law Senate Bill 127 on March 23, 2023, which amends the state’s data breach notification statutes. The amendments go into effect May 2, 2023.*

Along with updates to states’ laws, Federal regulators are also providing additional guidance too. For example, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) recently released more information regarding when banks need to know from their vendors about data breach including ransomware notifications.

Data Privacy Laws

In addition to creating and updating laws to help consumers in the event of a data breach, states have also been enacting laws dedicated to protecting consumer privacy. There are six states with comprehensive data privacy laws: California, Connecticut, Colorado, Iowa*, Virginia, and Utah. These laws give consumers various rights over their personal information, such as the right to know what information companies collect and use, a right to correct their information, a right to opt-out of the sale of such information, and a right to request deletion. 

In 2022, Congress introduced a federal privacy law, HR 8152, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act; however, it did not make it to the finish line despite having bipartisan support. It contained some preemption of state privacy and data protection laws, which would have been a relief to many companies navigating the existing patchwork of state laws.  As of January 2023, many states have introduced privacy-related bills and this is likely to continue throughout the years to come. 

California took the privacy law lead in passing the California’s Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) that went into effect in January of 2020 to protect the use and sharing of personal data. California recently expanded the CCPA with the California Privacy Rights Enforcement Act (CPRA) that took effect on January 1, 2023. The law created the new California Privacy Protection Agency and gave it the power, authority, and jurisdiction to implement and enforce CRPA. Additionally, businesses must regularly submit their risk assessment on the processing of personal information to this new agency. 

The four other states that followed suit have substantially similar laws with broad definitions of personal information. These laws typically apply to persons that conduct business in the state and processing a set minimum of consumer data records (typically 25,000 or more) or businesses who earn at least 50% of their revenue from the sale of consumer data. 

These laws give consumers various rights, such as the right to access their personal data, correct inaccurate personal data, delete personal data, in certain circumstances, obtain a copy of the personal data they previously provided to a controller, opt-out of the processing of their personal data if related to targeted advertising, sale of personal data or certain profiling activities, appeal a controller’s refusal to take action on a request, and submit a complaint to the attorney general if an appeal is denied. Interestingly, Colorado’s law makes clear that a consumer’s consent is not valid if obtained through the use of a “dark pattern.” 

These laws do not give consumers a private right of action but are enforced by the state’s attorney general with civil monetary fines calculated per violation. These laws also contain exemptions for data already protected by other laws, such as HIPAA, FCRA, and GLBA.

Virginia’s law took effect January 1, 2023. Both the Connecticut and Colorado Data Privacy Acts will go into effect July 1, 2023. The Utah Consumer Privacy Act takes effect December 31, 2023. The Iowa privacy bill (SF 262) was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. The legislation is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2025.*

Best Practices for the Future of Data Security & Privacy 

Having good security practices in place is not only beneficial for both consumers and businesses, but is absolutely critical to stay compliant with all the new laws and amendments being introduced. 

So what are some of the best privacy and security practices to implement to protect customers, companies, and stay compliant? 

  • Practice data minimization.
  • Know where personal information lives at all times by creating a data map of where the data goes and is stored throughout your systems, which includes knowing your vendor’s data security and privacy practices and controls. 
  • Know who has access to personal information and routinely examine if that access is necessary to complete that job function.
  • Be intentional with how data is organized and stored so it can be easily segmented and treated differently if need be (think network segmentation). 
  • Have a public facing Privacy Notice–and make sure it accurately reflects your practices for use, collection, deletion and correction.
  • Conduct an annual data security and privacy risk assessment to continually reassess areas for improvement and where you may need additional controls.
  • Ensure contracts with parties whom you receive and/or give personal information to specifically address each parties’ obligations and restrictions for how personal information is used, shared, disclosed, stored, and sold (if permitted).

Compliance with data privacy and data security requirements will continue to progress as new laws and regulations are passed. Best practices will continue to evolve as well, as we continue to learn more about the expectations from Federal and state legislators and regulators, and as companies navigate evolving threats and vulnerabilities. Watch the full Webinar: Coast to Coast— the State of Privacy and Compliance in 2023 here »»

Learn more in our Compliance & Collections Resource Center or schedule a consultation today

Footnotes: 

*The Iowa privacy bill (SF 262) was signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds on March 28, 2023 after TrueAccord’s Coast to Coast webinar. 

*The data breach law for Utah was passed on March 23, 2023 after TrueAccord’s Coast to Coast webinar

Q1 Industry Insights: Economic Stressors Persist while Pandemic-era Benefits End

By on April 5th, 2023 in Industry Insights

It’s tax season again, which can mean tax refunds for consumers that have historically been leveraged to stabilize finances or pay down debt. But with inflation and economic stressors persisting into the new year, many consumers are conflicted on their financial outlook and spending behavior is hard to predict. With uncertainties about how the end of various pandemic-era benefits will impact consumers, it’s more important than ever for creditors and collectors to implement strategies that consider consumer situations and preferences when attempting to collect.

Read on for our take on what’s impacting consumer finances and our industry, how consumers are reacting, and what else you should be considering as it relates to debt collection in 2023.

What’s Impacting Consumers and the Industry?

High inflation and interest rates persisted in the first quarter of 2023. While inflation eased for an eighth straight month in February at 6%, price increases rose sharply again on a monthly basis – prices grew 0.4% following a 0.5% increase in January, driven by higher gasoline and rent prices. In response, the Federal Reserve continued its battle against high inflation in March by raising its key interest rate by another .25% despite concerns around the turmoil that has shaken the banking system, landing it at 4.75-5%.

At the beginning of March, the federal government ended pandemic-era payments for low-income families on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), causing nearly 30 million Americans to lose increased food stamp benefits. The extended payment boost was credited with keeping 4.2 million people out of poverty, with the average household expected to lose upwards of $95 per month in benefits with the program’s end.

In early Q2, another pandemic-era benefit around Medicaid will come to an end that will impact millions of consumers over the coming months. An estimated 15 million low-income Americans who were able to keep Medicaid coverage during the pandemic without needing to renew coverage or despite no longer qualifying will find themselves without health insurance. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that in the end, more than 5 million children will have lost Medicaid, and predicts that Latino and Black beneficiaries will be disproportionately removed.

On the regulatory front, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) hit the ground running for 2023 with new guidance on subscription fees, proposed rulemaking on non-bank company terms and conditions, and issued an annual report sizing up the three credit reporting companies. Directly impacting creditors and debt collectors, a January ruling from the District Court of Puerto Rico found that sending debt collection communications prior to any knowledge of a debtor’s bankruptcy filing is not a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

For businesses using pre-recorded messages to contact consumers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a new rule specifying that to be exempt from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s (TCPA) consent requirements, callers are limited to three pre-recorded non-commercial, non-telemarketing, or non-profit calls per 30 days, and would need to include an opportunity to opt out of prerecorded calls as part of the message. The final amended rule will go into effect on July 20, 2023.

Meanwhile, eyes are on the Big Apple as the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) and the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection are simultaneously engaged in amending their consumer debt collection rules. The DFS amendments would be an overhaul of its existing regulations and would include new debt types, while both amendments would introduce new disclosure requirements and additional restrictions on communications – specifically extending the existing requirement for direct consent to send email and text messages.

Key Indicators and a Heavyweight Court Decision

According to the New York Fed’s Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, total household debt increased in the fourth quarter of 2022 by $394 billion (2.4%) to $16.90 trillion. Balances now stand $2.75 trillion higher than at the end of 2019, before the pandemic. In the same time period, the Federal Reserve reported that household net worth rose 2% to $147.71 trillion, driven by the value of equities holdings increasing $2.7 trillion offsetting a drop in real estate values by about $100 billion.

Consumers trying to make ends meet have continued turning to credit cards and other credit types to bridge the income to expense gap. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, U.S. consumer credit card debt has increased to nearly $1 trillion. Credit card balances jumped more than $60 billion over Q4 2022, lifting the total amount of U.S. credit card debt to an all-time high of $986 billion, the report found. Home equity loans and lines of credit continue to be an attractive option to homeowners, though high interest rates may make opening a new account less appealing in 2023.

Diving deeper into credit cards, Experian’s March Ascend Market Insights report found that credit card balances, while slowing slightly from previous months as seasonally expected, were up 18.8% year over year in February 2023. Additionally, the report found that there were 7.2% more open credit cards in February than there were a year prior. These balances and new cards coincide with an increase in interest rates, raising the stakes for delinquent accounts. According to a January 2023 Bankrate survey, 35% of Americans carry credit card debt from month to month, up 6% from 2022.

And delinquency is trending. Experian also reports that early-stage delinquency is nearing or exceeding pre-pandemic levels for most credit products, with exceptions for first and second mortgages, Home Equity Lines of Credit and student loans. 30+ day past due accounts showed a 2.12% increase month over month in February, while 90+ days past due unit delinquencies for auto loans and personal loans are higher than they were in 2019. Additionally, roll rates show 1.06% of consumer accounts rolled into higher stages of delinquency in February. Revolving credit utilization continues to slowly increase, as well. The same month, 63% of consumers had utilized 20% or less of their revolving limits, while 21% of consumers had utilization of 60% or more.

The student loan forgiveness debate continues into 2023 as the nearly 19% of Americans with student loans wait to see how the case shakes out with the Supreme Court. If successful, many consumers will see their overall debt burden decrease. If unsuccessful, those consumers will see no reduction in their debt and will be responsible for resuming payments that were deferred or went into forbearance during the pandemic. A ruling is expected sometime in Q2 2023.

While student loan delinquency rates have been almost nonexistent since payments were paused, the delinquencies in mortgages, auto loans and credit cards have been trending back to pre-pandemic levels, which doesn’t bode well for student loan holders with other debts. When student loan payments resume, consumers will have to prioritize debt repayment, leading to higher delinquency rates for other debt types. For a data-driven look into this topic, read our latest report, “Consumer Finances, Student Loans and Debt Repayment in 2023”

Consumers Sending Mixed Signals About Finances

As the cost of living remains high, 62% of Americans said they are living paycheck to paycheck in February, up from 60% the month prior, according to the latest Paycheck to Paycheck Report from PYMNTS.com and LendingClub. According to Deloitte’s State of the Consumer Tracker, consumers are feeling slightly more optimistic about their personal finances and the direction of the economy, but are also signaling stronger intentions to save versus spend. 

But Bankrate’s 2023 Annual Emergency Savings Report shows that growing debt is hurting consumers’ ability to save, with 36% of Americans reporting having more credit card debt than emergency savings, the highest on record since 2011. The report shows that consumer concern about finances is high, with 68% of people surveyed worried they wouldn’t be able to cover their living expenses for one month without their primary source of income, including 85% of Gen Zers — the most concerned of any generation. Unsurprisingly, 74% surveyed said economic factors, inflation and changes in income and employment are causing them to save less right now.

What Does This Mean for Debt Collection?

So far in 2023, the economic landscape isn’t cutting consumers any breaks. With persistently high inflation and interest rates, the impending threat of a recession and a number of pandemic-era benefits coming to an end, consumer finances will likely be impacted and stretched in myriad ways this year. For lenders or collectors engaging with distressed borrowers, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Meet consumers where they are, compliantly. While regulations and compliance impacted both phone calls and digital channels in some way in 2022, our takeaway is that a one-size-fits-all approach to debt collection communication won’t work at scale in 2023. By using an omnichannel approach, collectors are more likely to engage a customer on their preferred channel and open the door for engagement. For a closer look at what using an omnichannel approach means in debt collection, check out our latest eBook.

2. Give consumers agency to engage on their own time. What do emails and online payment portals have in common? Consumers get to decide when and where they use them. Just because a call center operates from 9-5, doesn’t mean consumers do. Remember that everyone’s situation is different, including when they can (or want) to address their debt. 

3. Give consumers flexibility on repayment time and terms. Higher monthly financial obligations make it harder for consumers to absorb unexpected expenses or carve out funds for debt repayment. Patience will be key in engaging distressed borrowers – give them payment plan options for when and how much they repay, which could mean smaller payments, shifting payments to align with their cash flow schedule or skipping a payment without penalty so they can get back on track.

Consumer Finances, Student Loans and Debt Repayment in 2023

By on March 21st, 2023 in Data Report, Industry Insights

The economy took a wild ride in 2022, and with interest rates continuing to rise, inflation expected to remain relatively high and household savings dwindling, 2023 could be just as challenging. As consumers battle high inflation and interest rates to afford necessities, budgets will be stretched and many will have to prioritize when and where they spend. Unsurprisingly, paying off debt will likely take a back seat to food, housing and transportation needs. But what will that mean for lenders and creditors?

In order to construct a comprehensive picture of the financial landscape for consumers with debt in delinquency, we analyzed data of thousands of consumers in debt collection to explore how they are positioned to handle financial stressors as well as how different financial burdens impact the repayment ability of consumers in debt collection, especially for those with student loans in this tumultuous economy. 

Key Takeaways from the Report:

  • Economic indicators show a rough road ahead for consumers
  • Resumed student loan payments will impact ability to pay debts – consumers with student loans have an average of $11,373 in non-student loan debt, or 92% more than consumers without student loans ($5,917)
  • Student loan holders increased their average number of open trade lines by 10.3% since 2020, while open trade lines decreased by 7.7% for non-student loan holders
  • Consumers with student loans have an average of $811 more in auto loan debt than those without student loans as of 2022
  • Engaging consumers with multiple debts requires understanding, personalization and patience in 2023

Download and read the full report for more insights.

Q4 Industry Insights: Economic Challenges, Big Unknowns and Worried Consumers

By on January 17th, 2023 in Industry Insights

In 2022 we started to see the toll inflation and economic stressors are taking on consumer finances. Inflation remained a top concern as the Fed tried to rein it in with rate hikes, and the higher costs and interest rates may have caused consumers to stretch their budgets as far as possible (or farther – holiday spending, anyone?), leading to a precarious financial outlook in 2023. As we start the new year with the continued threat of a recession and a shrinking employment market, building strategies that take consumer situations and preferences in mind is key, and of course, finding ways to work with distressed borrowers is the best path forward.

Read on for our take on what’s impacting consumer finances, how consumers are reacting, and what else you should be considering as it relates to debt collection in 2023.

What’s Impacting Consumers?

Compounding inflation and higher interest rates continued to be hard on consumer finances in Q4 of 2022. Inflation has been slowing, but still came in up 6.5% year over year in December, dropping 0.1% from November and driven by lower fuel costs. Food and housing inflation continue to rise at 10.1% and 8.1% annually respectively, and gasoline prices in January have already been rising. Interest rates sit between 4% to 4.25% after the latest 50 basis point rate hike, and the Fed projects raising rates as high as 5.1% (raised from a 4.6% projection in September) before ending the campaign to beat inflation.

According to Moody’s, while higher-income households saved more during the pandemic and are far less sensitive to rising prices, lower-income families are bearing inflation costs unequally and drawing down excess savings more quickly. Households earning less than $35,000 annually saw their excess savings shrink the most out of all income cohorts — their excess savings depleted by nearly 39% from Q4 2021 to Q2 2022 and was expected to run out by the end of the year.

Tasked with making ends meet and running out of savings, many consumers have turned to credit cards for extra funds. Credit card balances continued to climb for the ninth month in a row in November, up 16.9% year over year. According to Experian’s November Ascend Market Insights, there were 6.2% more open credit cards in October than there were a year prior and 11.1% more than at the end of October 2019 (pre-pandemic). Read: more credit cards with higher balances. 

And many of those credit cards belong to subprime borrowers who are more financially at risk to inflationary pressures and unexpected expenses. Equifax data reported by Bankrate shows that about 3.95 million traditional credit cards had been issued to subprime borrowers (consumers with a VantageScore 3.0 below 620) in Q1 2022, jumping by 18.3% and representing an overall credit limit of $3.29 billion, compared with the same period in 2021. And those balances will get more expensive as interest rates go up. According to Bankrate, credit card rates have risen to the highest levels ever since it began measuring the data in 1985, with today’s average annual credit card rate at 19.42%.

Credit cards aren’t the only option – consumers have other ways to access credit like personal loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOC). But these products are showing similar use trends, too. TransUnion reports that as of Q3 2022, 22 million consumers had an unsecured personal loan, the highest number on record, while total personal loan balances in the same quarter continued to grow, reaching $210 billion – a 34% increase over last year. Similarly, Experian reports that HELOC balances grew by 1.5% after increasing over 9 of the last 12 months. With HELOC originations down, the increase in balances is attributable to homeowners tapping into existing lines of credit as the cost of living rises.

Higher prices didn’t stop the holiday shopping – holiday sales rose 7.6% last year despite inflation, and much of that was online. Consumers spent a record $9.12 billion online shopping during Black Friday and another record $11.3 billion on Cyber Monday. Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) products, which help consumers with flexible payment plans, played a big role. From Black Friday through Cyber Monday, BNPL payments through leading providers jumped 85% compared with the week before, according to the most recent data from Adobe, with corresponding BNPL revenue rising 88% for the same period.

Key Indicators and a Big Unknown

According to the New York Fed’s Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, total household debt increased by $351 billion (or 2.2%) during the third quarter of 2022. Household net worth, which showed a record loss in Q2, continued to decrease in Q3 by another $392 billion (.3%). The value of equity holdings dropped $1.9 trillion and the value of real estate held by households only increased $820 billion.

Financial pressures mean consumers have less, if any, to save. The U.S. savings rate fell to a 17-year low in October, with the personal savings rate as a share of disposable income dropping to 2.3%. The latest Paycheck-to-Paycheck Report from PYMNTS and LendingClub shows that in November 2022, 63% of U.S. consumers were living paycheck to paycheck, a 3% rise from October. Spending more and saving less means many Americans may be at risk for financial hardship in 2023. 

Unsurprisingly, delinquencies are on the rise. According to Experian’s November Ascend Market Insights, there have been increases in 30+ days past due unit delinquency rates for six consecutive months, with those accounts showing a 3.28% increase month over month in October. This goes for both early-stage delinquencies, which are nearing or exceeding pre-pandemic levels for automobiles and unsecured credit products, and 90+ days past due delinquencies for auto and personal loans (higher than pre-pandemic). Experian’s data on overall roll rates also show that 1.32% of consumer accounts rolled into higher stages of delinquency in October 2022, representing the highest level of that metric since February 2020. 

But delinquencies haven’t peaked yet. TransUnion’s 2023 forecast, based on its latest Consumer Pulse Study, projects that both credit card and personal loan delinquencies will rise in 2023 from 2.1% to 2.6% and 4.1% to 4.3% respectively. If those projections come to bear, it would represent a 20.3% year-over-year increase in delinquent accounts. According to the report, Americans took out a record $87.5 million in new credit cards and $22.1 million in personal loans in 2022.

The big unknown around student loans will impact many consumers for better or worse. As President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program meets legal challenges, tens of millions of Americans wait to see what it means for them. If successful, many consumers will see their overall debt burden decrease, which may help stabilize finances. If unsuccessful, those consumers will see no reduction in their debt and will be responsible for resuming paused payments, which may further stress their financial situation. We’ll find out sometime in Q1 or Q2 of 2023, but the result will likely have a big consumer impact either way.

Consumers Are Worried About Inflation and Credit Cards

How are consumers feeling about the economic landscape and their personal finances? TransUnion’s Consumer Pulse Study reports that 54% of consumers said their incomes weren’t keeping up with inflation, while 83% said that inflation was one of their top three financial concerns for the next six months. But despite concerns about rising prices, more than half (52%) of Americans said they felt optimistic about their household finances for the upcoming year, even though 82% of consumers believe the U.S. is currently in or will be in a recession before the end of 2023.

All those new credit cards are causing some concern for consumers, as well. An early December survey from U.S. News & World Report shows that more than 8 in 10 Americans who have credit card debt are experiencing anywhere from a little to a lot of anxiety about it. An overwhelming majority of respondents (81.6%), all of whom have credit card debt, express some degree of stress about it – from a little bit (33.1%) to a medium amount (27%) to a lot (21.5%). The combination of rising costs and insufficient income was the most common reason given for having credit card debt, with unexpected expenses a close second.

What Does This Mean for Debt Collection?

As consumers wake up in 2023 with a holiday shopping hangover and bills to pay, the economic landscape isn’t going to cut them any breaks. Consumers will have to prioritize what they can pay and when, which means repaying some debts may get moved to the back burner while food, housing and other basic needs are addressed. Will delinquencies rise as expected? Will consumers turn to more credit cards or BNPL for a stopgap? What happens to overall debt burden with all the unknowns? We’ll soon find out, but as a lender or collector, here are some things to consider:

Make it easier to engage. On their preferred channel, at a convenient time, with all the information they need is the best way to engage consumers. Bonus points if they can self-serve on their own time.

Make it easier to pay. Paying in full may be impossible for many people with tight budgets, and offering flexible payment plans or removing minimum payment requirements may make debt easier to tackle. Self-serve online payment portals are a win/win for your business and your customers.

Make it more empathetic. Balancing finances and being in debt is hard, and people are doing their best to keep up. Understand that you may not recover past due balances immediately and it may take time and patience. In addition to when and where, reconsider how you’re speaking to consumers and you may be surprised at how empathy drives engagement. Need proof? See how customers responded to TrueAccord’s digital approach to debt collection in our 2022 Year in Review.

Q3 Industry Insights: Economic Challenges, Compliance Considerations and a Silver Lining

By on October 12th, 2022 in Industry Insights

As we roll toward the end of 2022, the economic landscape continues to weigh on consumers, and companies who lend to or service those consumers are preparing for what’s to come. Simultaneously, regulatory activity in the debt collection space has also been on a roll as organizations try to make sense of how technology can (and should) be used to innovate the industry.

Read on for our take on what’s impacting consumer finances, how consumers are reacting, and what else you should be considering as it relates to debt collection in 2022 and beyond.

What’s Impacting Consumers?

It’s a no-brainer that inflation and higher interest rates are hard on consumer finances, and unfortunately, we’re not seeing them come back down to earth very quickly. These two factors compound to make it more expensive to be a consumer and harder to acquire credit needed to make ends meet. A report by Bank of America found that a large majority of workers (71%) feel their pay is not keeping up with the cost of living.

And that cost keeps rising. The consumer price index rose 0.4% in September, up 8.2% from a year ago, driven by increases in food and shelter costs, and despite falling gas prices. This unrelenting upward-cost march brings the threat of financial instability to many Americans as their money doesn’t get them as far as it used to. According to a recent LendingClub report as of August, 60% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, up from 55% last year. 

Interest rates keep going up, and they haven’t hit the top yet. In September, the Federal Reserve announced the third consecutive rate hike of 75 basis points (the fifth rate hike of the year) and signaled additional aggressive hikes ahead, landing the federal interest rate at 3-3.25%. These interest rates can cause economic pain for millions of Americans by increasing the cost of borrowing for things like homes, cars and credit cards.

Household net worth, which was previously holding steady, proved to be a lagging indicator that has now corrected and caught up with the market. The value of equity holdings dropped $7.7 trillion and the value of real estate held by households only increased $1.4 trillion, softer than recent increases as ​​higher borrowing costs suppress demand. The Fed’s Financial Accounts data issued in September reflected the largest quarterly loss in household net worth ever at a staggering $6.1 trillion in the second quarter. This comes after falling $147 billion in the first quarter, but the second consecutive drop was much more telling.

According to the New York Fed’s Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, total household debt increased by $312 billion (or 2%) during the second quarter of 2022, and balances are now more than $2 trillion higher than they were before the pandemic.

Indicators and a Silver Lining

With prices increasing faster than income can keep up, consumers are covering the delta by pulling money from savings or putting expenses on credit cards, and it’s showing – consumer debt, including credit cards, is at an all-time high for the bottom 90% of US households. Credit card balances saw their largest year-over-year percentage increase in more than 20 years, adding $46 billion in the second quarter. High interest rates make credit cards a slippery slope for debt balances, and the latest interest rates have been over 20% for those with “good” or “fair” credit (FICO labels “good” credit scores between 670-739 and “fair” between 580-669).

Rising credit card balances aren’t the only thing to watch. Looking at month over month delinquency rates shows that consumers’ ability to repay is diminishing and they may be losing control over their debt. According to Experian’s Ascend Market Insights Dashboard from August, the end of Q2 saw 0.91% of consumer accounts rolling into higher stages of delinquency in July 2022, an increase from the month prior. There was also an uptick in 30+ delinquency rates in July, with 30+ day past due accounts increasing 7.33% month over month. And, collections and charge off rates for auto leases, personal loans and bank cards are higher than pre-pandemic.

Amidst all the economic gloom, there was a silver lining for many borrowers in the form of student loan forgiveness. In August, President Biden announced a student loan forgiveness of up to $10,000 for borrowers (or up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients). The New York Fed estimated that forgiving $10,000 per borrower would eliminate student debt for 11.8 million borrowers, or 31% of the total number. 

While this forgiveness may impact those borrowers significantly through credit score increases or stronger balance sheets, it likely won’t have as much impact on borrowers with higher balances as monthly obligations will remain. This is an ongoing initiative that is subject to change, and in the meantime, the COVID-19 pandemic-related program that paused federal student loan payments will end at the end of this year. Any borrowers with remaining balances after debt forgiveness must start making payments again in January.

Increased Regulatory Activity

In addition to announcing that they are mobile-first to align with consumer use trends, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been busy this quarter with initiatives to protect consumers including around the Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices Act (UDAAP), credit reporting, and a closer look at Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL).

Data and tech are a key focus. In August, the CFPB first announced that digital marketers who are materially involved in developing content strategies for businesses subject to CFPB regulation can face UDAAP liability for unfair, deceptive acts or practices and other violations. The very same day, they took action against a financial company for using a faulty algorithm that caused consumers to overdraft their accounts – underscoring their interest in “black box” algorithm decisioning. The next day, the CFPB published a circular about requirements to safeguard consumer data, specifically citing practices that “are likely to cause” substantial injury like inadequate data security measures.

And data concerns extend into BNPL. After first opening an inquiry into BNPL in December 2021, the CFPB in September issued a report that identified several competitive benefits of BNPL loans over legacy credit products, but also identified potential consumer risks: discrete consumer harms (i.e., a requirement to use autopay), data harvesting (i.e., lenders’ use of consumer data to increase the likelihood of incremental sales), and borrower overextension.

While the CFPB supports innovation in financial services that benefits consumers, their recent announcements make it clear that organizations that do not protect consumer data and use it fairly will be in violation of the UDAAP. Lenders and debt collectors should keep an eye on this area as the CFPB continues to examine and form opinions on data and tech in consumer financial services.

Also noteworthy in debt collection regulations: In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit dismissed the Hunstein opinion, which is big news for the industry. While debt collectors initially breathed a sigh of relief, there might be more to come here in state courts. Debt collectors should proceed cautiously when changing their policies, processes and procedures in light of this ruling.

What Can You Do?

So here we go into Q4, or as many consumers see it, the spending season. Will holiday spending take a huge blow from the challenging financial landscape? Will consumers rely even more on credit cards or BNPL to help cash flow and spend just as much? We’ll soon find out, but as a lender or collector, there are steps you can take to prepare:

Make sure your practices are compliant. Compliance in debt collection is a huge undertaking and will continue to evolve, and the patchwork of federal, state and regional guidelines may get messier. For a good snapshot of what compliance looks like today, check out our Collections & Compliance page.

Cater to the distressed borrower in collections. Cash-strapped consumers will need affordable options if you hope to recover past-due debt. This could be options for longer payment plans for more affordable installments, deeper settlements for payment plans, ability to “pay what you can” toward your debt, or removing minimum payment requirements.

Remember that consumers are humans. With feelings, problems, lives and a whole lot of other financial obligations. Engaging with distressed borrowers can be difficult, especially when they aren’t able to pay. Kindness, patience and understanding will go a long way in these efforts. Consider a humane, digital-first approach to align with their preferences. TrueAccord can show you how.

Q2 Industry Insights: TL;DR – Prepare Now for Delinquencies Tomorrow

By on July 5th, 2022 in Industry Insights

What’s going on in the economy? In Q2, Jamie Dimon advised to brace for an economic “hurricane”, a prominent black swan investor said the financial system is most vulnerable to “the greatest credit bubble of human history”, and Elon Musk had a “super bad feeling”.

As we wrap the second quarter and first half of 2022, we’re watching some key factors impacting consumers and the credit industry and making sense of what it might mean and how to prepare your business.

Key Factor 1: Inflation

Despite robust wage growth (average hourly earnings up 5.5% over last year), consumers are seeing those gains eroded by an 8.6% inflation rate in May, the highest in 40 years. The latest increase was driven by sharp year-over-year rises in the prices for energy (+34.6%), groceries (+11.9%) and shelter costs (+5.5%), an indicator of broad inflation pressures. In fact, rental prices across the nation hit a new record high—for the 15th month in a row, according to a recent Realtor.com report. Rents climbed 15.5% annually in May, to hit a median of $1,849 in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. 

As things get more expensive, cash flow gets trickier to manage. When consumers stretch their budgets to account for higher prices, cash previously used for discretionary spending and saving disappears. Case in point: U.S. inflation-adjusted consumer spending rose in April by the most in three months, while the personal savings rate dropped to 4.4%, the lowest since 2008 and down for the fourth straight month. This indicates that many consumers are spending more and saving less.

And what about the people who have been living paycheck to paycheck and haven’t been able to accumulate savings? According to a recent study, this group includes 70% of millennials, but also 51% of Gen X and 54% of baby boomers and seniors. While some consumers are able to dip into their savings at a time like this, for many others it means looking for new lines of credit, which could be challenging because of…

Key Factor 2: Interest Rate Hikes

After another rate hike in June, the federal interest rate sits at 1.5-1.75% with the central bank expected to deliver more 50+ basis point rate hikes this year. While the markets are pricing these into forecasts, consumers will feel them more acutely in a number of ways.

A hike in the federal interest rate prompts a jump in the Bank Prime Loan Rate (prime rate), the credit rate that banks offer to their most credit-worthy customers and off of which they base other forms of consumer credit like mortgages and consumer loans. This means that those looking to open a new line of credit – as a stopgap for insufficient cash flow or otherwise – will pay more for the capital required to make purchases, with unfavorable terms that could lead to even more problems down the road. 

And we’re already seeing increased use of credit cards to deal with inflation. The Federal Reserve’s monthly credit report found that revolving credit jumped nearly 20% in April from the previous month to $1.103 trillion, breaking the pre-pandemic record. Credit card balances are also already up year over year, reaching $841 billion in the first quarter of 2022, and are expected to keep rising, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For the estimated 55% of Americans who carry credit card debt month over month, paying off balances will get even more difficult for those not making minimum monthly payments. And opening a new credit card line may prove difficult – many lenders are or will be changing their strategies to stave off the looming threat of…

Key Factor 3: Rising Delinquencies

We all knew this was coming. Missed payments on certain loans are already on the rise. The Wall Street Journal reported that borrowers with credit scores below 620 (subprime) with car loans, personal loans or credit cards that are over 60 days late are “rising faster than normal.” And according to Experian’s Ascend Market Insights for June, there was an uptick in overall delinquency rates in May, with 30+ day past due accounts up 2.14% month over month, driven mostly by secured auto and mortgage loans.

The risk of delinquencies increases across the board of loan types when economic factors require consumers to stretch their dollars. When consumers spend more of their income on necessities, the surplus available for other expenses, like existing credit card or personal loan balances, dwindles, forcing consumers to prioritize payments. If your product or service is not essential to daily life, you may get pushed down the priority list and eventually dropped altogether as consumers try to make ends meet. And unfortunately for consumers, missing payments is also getting more expensive, especially on variable-rate products, and likely to compound an already financially sticky situation.

Key Factor 4: Regulatory and Compliance Guidelines

For those tasked with lending or recouping consumer loans, there are more regulatory considerations to keep in mind than before – debt collectors are under more scrutiny while lenders have similarly felt the regulatory squeeze with a number of new rulings in the past few months. Broadly, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) invoked a legal provision to examine nonbank financial companies that pose risks to consumers in an effort to help protect consumers and level the playing field between banks and nonbanks, meaning if you’re offering any financial services to consumers, you may be under the microscope.

Notably for lenders, the CFPB published an advisory opinion affirming that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) bars lenders from discriminating against customers even after they have received a loan, not just during the application process. Further, if you’re a lender using complex algorithms or machine learning for underwriting, the federal anti-discrimination law requires you to explain to applicants the specific reasons for denying an application for credit or taking other adverse actions, and “the system said so” is not a valid excuse

For collectors, the CFPB enacted Regulation F late last year, and since its effective date in November has logged 2,300+ complaints* around debt collection communication tactics, which it aims to regulate, causing debt collectors to rethink their contact strategies or face repercussions. The organization also issued an advisory opinion to reduce “junk fees” charged by debt collectors and took stands against a number of repeat offenders this quarter, underlining their intent to step up consumer protection.

What to do?

While we aren’t sounding the alarms just yet, it’s certainly looking like a risky market for lending amid a tightening economy and a bleak outlook on consumer finances (many are predicting when, not if, the next recession will happen, or maybe it’s already here). And don’t forget that student loan repayments are set to resume in Q3, adding even more financial responsibility back to many consumers’ budgets. If you’re a lender, you’re likely rethinking your underwriting strategy and starting to consider the very real possibility of what happens if/when your customers start defaulting. If you’re in charge of recovering debt, you may be readying for an uphill battle.

As you prepare for what’s to come in consumer lending and debt, there is an important reality to keep in mind: Your target customer has changed. Consumer motivation for, ability to acquire and feasibility of keeping up with payments for most types of loans is very different today than it was a year ago. And that customer’s profile changes again when they start missing payments due to financial stressors. 

The best thing to do now is to ensure you have an effective collection strategy in place, preferably one that prioritizes customer experience to protect your brand, and necessarily takes compliance into account to protect your business. A technology-driven solution can not only help lenders handle an influx of delinquent accounts, but can help to preserve valuable relationships with customers as well. But not all tech is created equal – we took machine learning a step further and built HeartBeat, our patented decision engine, designed to reach every customer based on their unique situation so you won’t miss a single recovery opportunity. Learn more about how it works in our latest eBook.

*Data is from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Complaint Database, for the time period 11/30/21 – 6/24/22.

Q1 Industry Insights: Consumers Will Consume, Lenders Will Lend, Delinquencies Will Rise

By on March 31st, 2022 in Industry Insights

It’s the end of the quarter and, as always, we at TrueAccord are looking at consumer debt trends that will impact our industry and beyond. The four key trends we’re studying are: resumed foreclosure activity, extensive medical bills, the end of child tax credits and historically high inflation. Add these all together and the financial outlook for consumers, especially those in debt, is scary.

But there are silver linings, as well. For one, the consumer credit market is looking strong with signs of expansion, specifically,  originations for credit cards and personal loans are increasing. Second, the fintech industry continues to grow and evolve to meet the changing needs of consumers, offering more opportunities for financial inclusion and innovative customer experiences.

The Downside

Look, coming out of a pandemic and into a tumultuous international economic situation, we don’t expect it to be easy. But some definitely feel it more than others. For many families, government stimulus through child tax credits (which ended in December) was helpful in covering the gaps in income from pandemic losses, but it wasn’t enough to prepare them to take on new expenses and restart all the financial obligations that were temporarily on hold. In fact, a recent report from the Columbia University Center on Poverty & Social Policy found that 3.7 million U.S. children were plunged back into poverty by the end of January when child tax credits expired, indicating that the stimulus was making a significant financial difference for many families.

In January, the foreclosure proceedings that were paused under the CARES Act resumed after an 18-month hiatus. In January alone this amounted to 56,000 foreclosure starts, up 29% from the month prior. But that doesn’t tell the whole story: 964,464 mortgages are still seriously delinquent and not in forbearance, with 49% in loss mitigation plans. Even more concerning, of those 474,071 borrowers in loss mitigation, 72% just aren’t paying.

The average American household is now paying an additional $276 per month on expenses thanks to record-high inflation. And don’t forget pandemic-related medical expenses from Covid-19 testing and treatment. A recent survey found that 56% of Americans, with or without insurance, owe health-related debt, and almost one in six people with medical bills aren’t paying them off.

And it’s not just medical bills. According to Experian’s latest Ascend Market Insights, February marked the 9th month in a row with increasing 30+ delinquency rates on a unit basis across debt types. Their data shows that 30+ day past due accounts showed a 7.59% increase month over month with notable delinquency increases in first mortgages, second mortgage, auto leases and unsecured personal loans. Additionally, month over month views of roll rates show 0.91% of consumer accounts were rolling into higher stages of delinquency in February 2022. This indicator has now returned to the same level as the start of the pandemic in March 2020. 

While student loan payments are still paused through May, the day is quickly approaching when many will see their financial obligations increase yet again, compounding the burden and financial pressure on consumers.

The Upside

In spite of the challenging economic landscape, the good news is that consumers now have more options when it comes to lending and personal finance, and they’re taking advantage of them. Higher costs of living and, for some, sustained unemployment (partially influenced by the Great Resignation) are driving consumers to look for new lines of credit to manage expenses. According to TransUnion, originations for personal loans are expected to continue rising in 2022 to both non-prime and prime and above consumers, reaching pre-pandemic origination volumes last seen in 2019, while credit card origination and balances will hold steady near pre-pandemic levels.

And lenders are happy to lend. Between extra cash on hand from government stimulus, pauses on many financial obligations and new cash flow budgeting options like BNPL taking the payments industry by storm, consumers actually did a pretty good job managing their finances in regard to repaying debts during the pandemic. Delinquencies were at record lows, causing lenders to become more comfortable serving subprime segments that were performing well. As a result, originations for credit cards and personal loans have returned to pre-pandemic levels and have been holding fairly constant over the last two quarters.

This bodes well for financial inclusion and the bevy of fintechs looking to get in on the action. From eCommerce and retail to banking and money transfers, every sector features a fintech company that’s innovating digitally to provide more people with better financial access and positive customer experiences. A recent report by Plaid includes key findings about what consumers want from their financial services: 1) apps and services that work when and how they want and that make it easier to manage money, 2) interoperability, with apps and services providing connected experiences, regardless of the providers, and 3) services that not only help them save money but achieve better financial outcomes. And guess what? Fintech companies are delivering. According to research from Bloomberg, fintech companies now originate 38% of U.S. unsecured personal loans, with a large presence in the mortgage and auto loan categories.

Boiling This All Down

Remember when stimulus money was flowing, consumers weren’t spending as much (because what was there to do?) and instead taking the opportunity to pay off loans and debt and save at record rates? Those times are gone and signs show that consumers are looking to use more credit and take on new loans in response to economic pressures. Unfortunately, a rise in originations will inevitably lead to a rise in delinquencies, especially in a challenging and unpredictable economy. Knowing what comes next, now is the time to start thinking about pre-default and keeping consumers on track with payments and out of collection.

For lenders, this means engaging delinquent customers early on when the first signs of slippage occur, and how you do that is important. Consumers today expect a seamless, personalized experience in every financial transaction, and the right recovery operations can continue to deliver that all the way through the customer journey when you have the right strategy in place. If you don’t know where to start in building a strategy, our Recovery & Collection Starter Kit is a good place.

How to Use Recovery KPIs: Your Keys to Building a World-Class Strategy

By on February 17th, 2022 in Industry Insights
TrueAccord Blog

Measuring the success of a recovery strategy goes beyond just the dollars and cents recovered. Yes, the goal of a recovery operation is to maximize profitability by efficiently recovering money lent to consumers, but other key factors — like consumer experience and retention — are also important in evaluating the success of your business.  

A recovery team could theoretically chase down every last delinquent dollar, but doing so is often not worth the  operational cost of the effort, and the associated legal and reputational risk can cut into profitability. 

In this blog post, we’ll share the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) for collections and recovery — and how you can use them to create a seamless, scalable, and world-class recovery practice. 

Meet the Metrics 

Whether looking at portfolio performance, operational profitability, or consumer experience, different KPIs play a role in measuring the success of a recovery strategy. Collectively, these metrics make up the “language” of recovery and collection — helping organizations understand the fundamentals of their operation.

Here are a few of the most integral metrics to know:

Accounts per Employee (APE) or Accounts to Creditor Ratio (ACR): the number of delinquent accounts that can be serviced by an individual recovery agent 

Net Loss Rate or Net Charge Off Rate: measures the total percent of dollars loaned that ended up getting written off as a loss

Delinquency Rate: total dollars that are in delinquency (starting as soon as a borrower misses a payment on a loan) as a percentage of total outstanding loans – often an early warning sign on the total volume of delinquent debt

Promise to Pay Rate: the percentage of delinquent accounts that make a verbal or digital commitment to pay

Promise to Pay Kept Rate: the percentage of delinquent accounts that maintain a stated commitment to pay

Roll Rate: the percentage of delinquent dollars that “roll” from one delinquency bucket to the next over a given period of time – provides visibility into the velocity with which debts are heading into charge off

Profitability of a Collections Operation Formula: R x ResF x E 

R [Reach]: percentage of consumers in delinquency can you actually reach 

ResF [Resolution Funnel]: how effectively you can convert initial contact with a consumer into a commitment to pay – and ultimately, a payment promise kept (see Promise to Pay Rate and Promise to Pay Kept Rate) 

E [Efficiency]: calculation of what the “unit economics” of your collection are and how much it costs, on average, for every account that you rehabilitate

The following diagram highlights the relationship between these core operational metrics of a recovery strategy and portfolio-level outcomes.

In the hyper-competitive financial services space, consumer experience is a source of competitive advantage. That’s why it stands to reason that alongside the “traditional” metrics we see above, forward-looking fintechs and lending organizations should include KPIs that measure the value of consumer experiences:

Net Promoter Score (NPS): how likely a consumer is to recommend a given brand after an experience with a brand’s collection organization

Customer Retention Rate: how likely a consumer is to be reacquired by a given brand after his or her delinquent account is rehabilitated

How to Make the Most Out of These Metrics

So you have traditional metrics and consumer-focused KPIs, but how do you use it all? Managing performance with operational and consumer-centric metrics requires understanding the economics of recovery. Successful organizations will use the data to measure trends against the company’s own historical data, evaluate partners and strategies, and understand the big picture.

Understand the Big Picture

Visualize the relationship between operational metrics and portfolio-level outcomes. Conduct scenario planning exercises (e.g., “if we were able to improve the reach of our efforts by 25% through digital outreach, we would be able to reduce our net loss rate by 750 basis points”).

Measure Trends Longitudinally

Benchmark against a company’s own historical data as the collection team rolls out new strategies and tactics (e.g., “we boosted our promise to pay kept rate by 350 basis points relative to the previous vintage with pre-payment date reminders”)

Evaluate Partners

Assess potential collection vendors against a standard slate of metrics and KPIs (e.g., “of the three vendors that we evaluated for our collections, which one led to the greatest reduction in roll rate?”)

Moving Towards World-Class Recovery 

Understanding collection KPIs and how to use them is a critical part of creating an effective recovery strategy — learn about all the components of a successful collection operation in our new ebook, the Guide to World-Class Recovery. Available for download now, this ebook provides the tools and frameworks to ensure that you’re architecting the right recovery strategy for your company for the long run. 

Download the Guide to World-Class Recovery»

The Digest: December 2020

By on December 17th, 2020 in Industry Insights

Between the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, a potential second stimulus package, and the incoming Biden administration, big changes are upon us in the United States. How will these changes impact the worlds of finance, fintech, and collections? Here are the headlines we’re watching as we consider the changes to come in 2021:

• As we covered in November, the CFPB’s new debt collection rule signals a continued shift towards more protections for consumers in debt. With the incoming Biden administration, more regulatory news from the CFPB could be imminent, including announcements of more aggressive oversight of the student debt industry and regulations to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure.

• According to Bloomberg, “Americans’ household finances are in the best shape in decades,” despite the surging pandemic. While 2020 has been much harder on working-class families, data from the Federal Reserve shows that “they too have more money in the bank now.” Unfortunately, this good news regarding household finances is complicated by the recent jump in unemployment claims and an increase in food insecurity among low-income families.

• Lawmakers are currently in stimulus negotiations, which means some financial relief could be on the way for families and businesses. Even if a deal is not achieved in the coming weeks, the Biden administration has indicated that “it will push for a multi-trillion-dollar package in 2021,” according to Business Insider. As we’ve noted, a large stimulus could have wide-ranging effects on consumer finances, including a possible sharp increase in debt repayment.

• On the fintech front, we are still closely watching the rising success of BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) startups, such as Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna. PYMNTS.com recently released a study, Buy Now, Pay Later: Millennials and the Shifting Dynamics of Online Credit, that sheds light on the audience factors encouraging this emerging landscape. As we’ve noted before, flexible payment options can be a real win-win: better for the customer experience, as well as a positive for payment plan retention.

The Digest: The CFPB’s New Debt Collection Rule

By on November 19th, 2020 in Industry Insights

In this edition of The Digest, we’re zooming in on a topic making headlines in the world of collections: the new CFPB debt collection rule. We sat down with TrueAccord’s Chief Compliance Officer Tim Collins to get his initial thoughts on what the new rule will mean for the collections industry, and how it may open new doors for better relationships between collectors and consumers.

Tim, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the long-awaited new CFPB debt collection rule. It’s the first big change to the FDCPA since 1977, and it provides new “rules of the road” for collections. What are some of the top takeaways for the collections industry?

As you said, this is the first major change to the FDCPA in over forty years. The new rule is meant to help the collections industry adapt to all the exponential changes in technology, communication, and consumer behavior that have happened since then.

To some degree, there is still a focus on regulating the more traditional world of call-and-collect agencies. There are new guidelines around call caps. They also put in a clearer definition of limited content messages, which was a topic that the industry was looking for guidance on. In general, there are now clearer instructions on the means by which a collector can reach a consumer.

Beyond the world of call-and-collect agencies, the new rule opens doors for better digital communications with consumers—email, SMS, etc. There’s a huge focus on consumer preference. The new rule is clear: the consumer has the right to tell you when is a good time for them to be contacted, and they have the ability to tell you what communications channels work best for them. All of that is very much in line with what we already do—and have always done—at TrueAccord.

The new rule is clear: the consumer has the right to tell you when is a good time for them to be contacted, and they have the ability to tell you what communications channels work best for them.

I know TrueAccord was influential in issuing comments that were ultimately incorporated into the rule. Can you tell us a bit about that?

We’re proud to have been involved in providing public comments to the rule around the use of email in collections. We were able to share our insights on how emails should be sent, why email is convenient for consumers, the advantages of email with opt-out, and other dimensions of a successful, compliant email program.

[Editor’s note: for more insights from TrueAccord on using email in collections, check out our new whitepaper co-authored with Experian: What to Know When Adding Email to Collections: The Ultimate Guide]

It’s important to note that the new rule won’t take effect until late 2021, and there’s a lot that could change between now and then in the United States. So, there’s still some degree of uncertainty about how the rule will be implemented.

That’s right. There’s a lot of things that could happen between now and when the rule becomes effective. Also, we’re still waiting for part two of the rule to come out. That will likely happen in December.

So yes, there’s a lot that we still don’t know, and a lot that could change. There’s even a chance the whole rule could be tossed out, though that is unlikely. But right now, the new rule gives us a vision and a direction about where the industry is headed— and that is towards better alignment with consumers, more protection for consumers. That’s part of the CFPB’s mission, and that’s part of our mission as well.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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TrueAccord’s compliance and digital collections experts are available to talk more about the CFPB’s new debt collection rule and what it will mean for the collections industry. Start a conversation with our team to learn more.