After a flood of calls to its office, on April 3, the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued Guidance in Response to Some Frequently Asked Questions (“Guidance”) related to its prior emergency order regarding debt collection, codified at 940 CMR 35.00. The Guidance answers several questions, including who is now considered a debt collector and what constitutes an unfair or deceptive act or practice under the emergency regulation. These emergency regulations will remain in place for the duration of the state of emergency declared in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Regarding debt collectors – the Guidance confirmed that the definition of a debt collector now includes any agency collecting on behalf of a “first-party,” “original creditor,” or “debt buyer.” The Guidance clarified that a credit union is not a debt collector, unless it “uses any name other than his own which would indicate that a third person is collecting or attempting to collect the debt.”
The Guidance also clarified what action is considered an unfair, or deceptive act or practice under the emergency regulation. While the emergency regulation has made the initiation of a communication with an individual via an outgoing phone call an unfair or deceptive act or practice, the Guidance clarified that answering inbound calls and/or returning calls are not prohibited.
Lastly, the Guidance explained that a debt collector is not prohibited from accepting payments pursuant to any order of attachment, but cannot initiate any new action or serve an order for attachment of wages or property. The Guidance also confirmed that all activity “relative to the repossession of a vehicle,” must be halted.
We will post updates as additional information is released.