On March 30, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (“the Department”) issued a statement, accessible here, providing guidance to licensed debt collectors and debt buyers relaxing statutory guidelines mandating that collection actions only take place at their registered addresses. As many non-essential businesses throughout the state transition into having employees work from home, the Department’s statement offers debt buyers and collectors more leeway in continuing operations in light of the coronavirus (“COVID-19”).
The Illinois Collection Agency Act, 225 ILCS 425 et seq., does not contemplate that debt collectors would be able to conduct business at a place other than the address of the business on file with the Department. The statement offers collection agencies the opportunity to work from someplace other than the addresses of record, including remotely, without violating the statute as long as the Department is notified of the address change within 14 days.
Though not mandatory, the Department urges collection agencies to work with consumers to modify payment schedules, or otherwise cease collection activities for a period of 60 days. The Department further reminds debt collectors that they must still abide by applicable laws, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, amongst other pertinent laws.
The Department concludes its statement with a warning to debt collectors, reminding them that communications at times or places that should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer are still prohibited, and that the Department will continue to closely monitor adherence to FDCPA and Illinois Collection Agency Act guidelines. The Department also urges debt collectors to use appropriate disaster relief codes when reporting accounts to consumer reporting agencies in order to mitigate the impact of the crisis on consumer credit scores.
Though the Department is giving debt collectors leeway in terms of working remotely, it reminds debt collectors that they must still follow applicable law. The Department continues to urge workouts and forbearance where applicable. Though the Department is allowing debt collection activities to continue in light of the pandemic, it also strongly recommends taking affirmative steps to work with and accommodate consumers to minimize the economic impact of the pandemic.