On November 16, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) released its Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) Annual Report detailing the CFPB’s 2022 activities related to debt collection practices. This comprehensive document summarizes everything FDCPA-related undertaken by the agency during 2022, including enforcement actions, a summary of consumer complaints, education and outreach initiatives, and highlights from examinations it conducted. In addition to summarizing activities in the debt collection space from the past year, the report hints at potential future activities. Tellingly, the CFPB’s focus in 2022 was predominantly on medical debt, as highlighted by its press release announcing this report.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a summary order affirming a district court’s holding that an emailed response to the plaintiff’s email did not constitute an “initial communication” under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA).
A district court in the District of Arizona granted a motion to dismiss in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) case on the basis that multimedia messaging service (MMS) texts do not constitute prerecorded messages unless the audible component plays automatically upon opening.
Earlier this year, a district court for the Middle District of Florida upheld a jury award of $225,000 in punitive damages in a debt collection case finding the defendant’s conduct “reprehensible” based on the physical harm caused to the plaintiff, the defendant’s indifference or reckless disregard of the harm it caused to the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s financial vulnerability, and the defendant’s repeated actions.
On October 24, the Biden-Harris administration announced amendments to the regulations implementing title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). According to the fact sheet, the amendments are intended to allow the Department of Education (ED) to better protect students from the negative effects of sudden college closures, restrict colleges from withholding course credits paid for with federal money from students’ transcripts, require colleges to clearly communicate how much financial aid students will receive, and provide a more streamlined process for states to approve postsecondary opportunities for students without a high school diploma or its equivalent. The amended regulations will take effect on July 1, 2024.
On October 30, President Biden issued a sweeping Executive Order calling on Congress to enact privacy laws and directing federal agencies to review existing rules and potentially explore new rulemakings governing the use of artificial intelligence (AI) across various sectors of the U.S. economy. Among other things, the Executive Order will require AI system developers to submit safety test results to the federal government, establish standards for detecting AI-generated content to fight consumer fraud, and develop AI tools to identify and fix vulnerabilities in critical software. According to the White House fact sheet, the stated goal of the Executive Order is to “ensure that America leads the way in seizing the promise and managing the risks of [AI].” To that end, the Executive Order focuses on national security, privacy, discrimination and bias, healthcare safety, workplace surveillance, innovation, and global leadership.
A U.S. District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin recently denied both the defendant and plaintiff’s summary judgment motions in a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) case, holding that the reasonableness of the defendant’s investigation of the plaintiff’s identity theft claim was a triable issue.
On October 19, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued its highly anticipated notice of proposed rulemaking under Section 1033 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (CFPA). The proposed Personal Financial Data Rights Rule would require depository and nondepository entities to make available to consumers and authorized third parties certain data relating to consumers’ accounts, establish obligations for third parties accessing a consumer’s data, and provide basic standards for data access. Notably, the proposed rule only provides for narrow exceptions, such as community banks and credit unions that have no digital interface with their customers. The CFPB is currently accepting comments on the proposed rule until December 29, 2023.
New York City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (NYC DCWP) recently released a notice of proposed amendments to its debt collection rules. The proposed amendments are detailed, lengthy, and include expanded recordkeeping and reporting requirements, specific provisions relating to collection of time-barred debt and medical debt, and significant revisions to existing rules governing validation and verification procedures and consumer communications. NYC DCWP is currently accepting comments on the proposed amendments through November 29, 2023 and a public hearing is also scheduled for that same day. Highlights of the proposed amendments are summarized below.
On October 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a decision rejecting a district court’s finding that the so-called informational injury doctrine established Article III standing for the named plaintiff and putative class in a class action brought under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).