D.C. Council revises debt collection laws

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON D.C. (WDVM) — The Council of the District of Columbia voted on legislation that will protect residents from aggressive debt collection the country recovers from the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the council voted to expand the already existing debt collection law, which was originally adopted in the 1970s. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson says the district’s current debt collection law “provides far inferior protections than many states or even the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.”

“Because we are lifting the public health emergency and there are in the public health emergency related legislation provisions on debt collection, this bill is taking the place of those protections,” Council Chairman Mendelson said during Tuesday’s meeting.

The new emergency legislation expands the definition of debt to include all consumer debt, including medical debt and credit card debt. It also aims to regulate debt collectors’ use of voicemails because the technology was not widely available when the original legislation was enacted in 1971.

Council Chairman Mendelson also highlighted that there there needs to be more extensive limitations on debt collectors as recommended by the consumer protection practices.

The legislation would also prohibit excessive communications that would qualify as harassment, such as making more than three phone calls in a seven-day period. The legislation would also prohibit deceptive behaviors and expands upon the definition in the current law. Council Chairman cited the examples of a debt collector taking threatening action that is not legally allowed, threatening to disclose false information, or seeking to collect that debt from those with no legal obligation to pay it. The legislation goes so far as to prohibit debt collectors from seeking to collect debts owed by a deceased consumer.

The bill also defines the documentation that a debt buyer or a third party must obtain or possess before bring forward a claim. The bill also places a cap on attorney’s fees that must be paid by individual consumers, meaning a debt collector can’t recover more than 15% of the debt in attorney’s fees.

For the full copy of the legislation, please visit the Council of the District of Columbia website.

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