Background: Earlier this spring, New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA or Department) adopted amendments related to how debt collectors must interact with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) consumers when collecting a debt. The amended rules, which were originally slated for a June 27, 2020, effective date, included a number of new requirements impacting letters; agency websites and record retention.
For reference, click here to review RMAI’s original Member Alert on this topic
https://rmaintl.org/member-alerts/member-alert-urgent-notice-regarding-new-york-city-collections/ and click here to get more information and register for RMAI’s recorded webinar: Breaking Down the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs New Foreign Language Rules and FAQs.
The Rules: One of the amended rules requires debt collectors to inform consumers in any initial collection notice and on any public-facing websites of:
- the availability of any language access services provided by the collector; and
- a translation and description of commonly used debt collection terms in a consumer’s preferred language on the Department’s website. Emphasis added.
Effective Date: It is the latter of these two requirements that created a challenge for the DCA. The DCA failed to post any translation or description of commonly used debt collection terms in a consumer’s preferred language on the Department’s website in time for debt collectors to meet the June 27, 2020 effective date. The absence of such information on the DCA’s website prior to June 27, rendered it impossible for debt collectors to comply with the new rules and caused the Department to extend the effective date of the amended rules to October 1, 2020.
To find the reference to the new effective date, visit https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/index.page. You will see an area in black with white lettering which states, “DCWP announced that its new rules to protect Limited English Proficiency (LEP) consumers from deceptive debt collection practices will go into effect on October 1, 2020.”
DCA Website Update: On Tuesday, September 29, just two days before the amended rules were to take effect, the DCA posted the commonly used debt collection terms and their translation on the Department’s website. Click here for the Glossary of Common Debt Collection Terms https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/consumers/Glossary-of-Common-Debt-Collection-Terms.page.
So, what does this mean? Effective today, October 1, 2020, members who collect consumer debt in New York must include a reference to the DCA’s web page which includes the translation and description of commonly used terms in any initial collection notices and on any public-facing websites. Oddly, the new rule does not require debt collectors to reference a link to the actual web page with the LEP information. Rather, the new rule requires the debt collector to include a link to the general DCA website using the following verbiage in its initial letters and public facing websites.
“[(viii) a statement that] a translation and description of commonly-used debt collection terms is available in multiple languages on the Department’s website, www.nyc.gov/dca.”
Until and unless the DCA provides further clarification regarding the use of the URL www.nyc.gov/dca to the city’s website as opposed to the URL associated with the DCA’s LEP information, members are encouraged to use www.nyc.gov/dca to comply with the new rules.
A WORD OF CAUTION: Members are well advised to read the commonly used definitions presented on the DCA’s webpage in detail. Many of the definitions are inconsistent with the definitions provided in the regulations, such as Zombie Debt and Creditor. Members will be updated as to how the inconsistencies will be resolved as more information is obtained from DCA. In the meantime, please consult with your independent legal counsel when making decisions about credit reporting time-barred debt or any other inconsistency you may identify in the regulations.
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The reach of RMAI’s advocacy efforts extends to state and federal regulatory and legislative activity, like these new rules in New York City. You can get information about the Legislative Fund and make your contribution at https://rmaintl.org/advocacy/contribute-now/.
This alert is intended for members of the Receivables Management Association International and is for informational purposes only and is in no way intended to provide legal advice. Members are encouraged to consult with an attorney of their choice for legal advice concerning this matter.