RMAI extends its thoughts of support to all of those affected by Hurricane Fiona and Tropical Storm Fiona. RMAI recommends all members temporarily suspend collection calls and communications to consumers in the areas of Puerto Rico directly affected by these emergencies.

To find out more about all disaster declarations, visit the FEMA website at https://www.fema.gov/disaster/declarations.

The RMAI Receivables Management Certification Program state of emergency and hardship policy standards provide the following guidance:

(A18) State of Emergency. Unless state or federal agencies provide guidance to the contrary, a Certified Company shall:

(a) Refrain from initiating phone calls with consumers concerning the payment of a debt when the company knows there is an ongoing and active emergency related to a natural disaster that is impacting the community where the consumer resides;

(b) Implement their hardship policy (see Standard A20) when interacting with consumers who reside in an area that is subject to a state of emergency that was declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA);

(c) Take reasonable steps to avoid soliciting or otherwise attaching to government emergency relief funds. A company may accept government emergency relief funds for the payment of a debt if the consumer voluntarily chooses to use those funds for payment; and

(d) Consider guidance issued by the RMAI Board of Directors in circumstances unforeseen by this standard.

(A20) Hardship Policy. A Certified Company shall establish and maintain a hardship policy that addresses appropriate collection strategies to be used by employees and agents during a state of emergency (see Standard A18) or during other circumstances identified by the company in the policy. In instances where there is a client-agent relationship, a Certified Company shall follow the hardship criteria that is contractually required. A reasonable hardship policy shall include, but not be limited to, measures taken to ensure the Certified Company and its agents:

(a) Actively listen for consumer hardships such as reduced work hours, loss of income, loss of employment, and medical issues associated with the state of emergency or other identified circumstances and to respond appropriately;

(b) Work with and are sensitive to consumers who have encountered unforeseen circumstances;

(c) Except for litigation, accept consumer requests in both oral and written form, to the degree it is reasonably possible;

(d) Provide consumers that have demonstrated a hardship with the available options that are contained in the hardship policy based on the circumstances unique to each consumer. These options may include, among others, temporarily or permanently suspending collection activities; grace periods for payments; balance reduction; suspension of interest accumulation; or offering other forms of assistance.

(e) Cease collection activities when it is verified the consumer’s only income is from exempt sources, such as Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits, and that the consumer has access to no other assets until circumstances change;

(f) Place collection holds on all open accounts associated with the consumer who is experiencing the hardship, provided it is reasonably possible; and

(g) Are prepared to make operational adjustments to remain compliant with regulatory guidance issued during a state of emergency.

This Member Alert is intended for members of the Receivables Management Association International, 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.