The interim Administrator of the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Jan Zavislan, conducted an open meeting on July 30, 2018 related to the administration of the Act. Zavislan is Senior Counsel for the Consumer Protection Section at the Colorado Attorney General’s office and has worked in the AG’s office since 1988. He served for 16 years as the Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Consumer Protection section with jurisdiction in the areas of consumer fraud, antitrust, public utilities, consumer credit and collection agency practice. He made it clear that he is not seeking the job of Administrator. He intended this session, which is required by the CFDCPA under the SB17-216 amendments passed in 2017, to be a “listening session,” which he underscored by not presenting a prepared statement and instead sought comments and statements from the 50 or so participants. This article briefly summarizes the statements and observations of meeting participants.
Rebuttals to Previous Meeting
The Associated Unit of ACA (CO, WY, NM) offered rebuttals to comments made at the consumer advocacy meeting held in January 2018, at which industry members were not allowed to speak:
• Collection agencies do not intentionally sue people on Medicaid. When patients do not inform their providers of their Medicaid coverage, collection lawsuits may occur.
• The local collection industry opposes process server licensing proposals. Licensing would increase costs to consumers.
Requests From Collectors
The group provided several requests:
• The industry would like a rulemaking hearing and would like to see amendments to the credit repair statute.
• Amendments to the CFDCPA that would specifically allow for modern forms of communication including the use of email and text messages, to meet consumer demands for electronic communication.
• Increased levels of communication between the AG’s office and industry to prevent inadvertent law violations, emphasizing that the AG’s office has failed to issue any advisory opinion since 2006.
The administrator asked for further suggestions for updates to the law, or rulemaking, and was met with several:
• Streamlining the license application process. An attorney debt collector suggested that Colorado adopt NMLS for licensing, explaining the time-saving benefits to the industry and the regulator, and the benefits to consumers.
• Simplifying the licensing requirements related to the sale and transfer of a business.
• Repealing the need to either record or have a second person verify a payment made over the phone.
• Concentrating enforcement efforts on egregious violations, and communicating errors to licensees with instructions for correction, rather than pursuing enforcement actions related to potentially inadvertent law violations.
• Improvements to the complaint handling process
When asked for suggestions for the next annual meeting, participants requested better information on consumer complaints the Administrator’s office is seeing – type and varieties. More granular information about complaints should be provided. Raw data on complaints needs to be tempered with information about volumes of contacts, providing context for the data. Information related to activity of unlicensed agencies was requested, information on convenience fees was requested. To benefit more remote licensees in the state, one participant suggested Skyping the meeting next year.
Zavislan revealed that the Administrator’s office had added a full-time equivalent to work on complaint handling. Feedback from conversations with colleagues in Colorado indicates that the Administrator’s office is already scrutinizing consumer complaints in more detail by requesting additional details related to individual complaint responses. Feedback is sometimes provided to respondents related to perceived deficiencies in the collection agency’s practices when warranted. Certainly this is preferable to an in-depth investigation or an out-of-theblue enforcement action.
Debra Ciskey is the Chief Compliance Officer at Wakefield & Associates. Inc. She is a member of the board of directors and a certified instructor for ACA International.