For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Implements New Rules to Protect Limited English Proficiency New Yorkers from Predatory Debt Collection
NEW YORK, NY
– Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas announced that its new rules to protect Limited English Proficiency (LEP) consumers from deceptive debt collection practices will, after a delay in enforcement due to COVID-19, go into effect on October 1, 2020. DCWP made the announcement at a Federal Trade Commission press teleconference
, a nationwide law enforcement and outreach initiative called Operation Corrupt Collector to protect consumers from phantom debt collection and abusive and threatening debt collection practices.
The new rules require debt collection agencies to:
- Inform consumers of any translation or other language access services that are available;
- Notify consumers about a glossary of commonly-used debt collection terms that is available in multiple languages on DCWP’s website;
- Request, record, and retain a record of each consumer’s language preference;
- Report a consumer’s language preference if they send the debt back to the creditor, sell the debt, or refer it to litigation; and
- Maintain a report of the number of accounts where they have tried to collect on a debt in a language other than English.
“Americans owe $4.1 trillion in outstanding non-mortgage consumer debt and many New Yorkers still do not know when they will get their next paycheck or how they will put food on the table tomorrow,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “At the very least, the 2 million Limited English Proficiency consumers in this city now have rules to protect them. Now it is not only wrong to withhold from consumers what language access services are available to them – but it is also illegal.”
In New York City, where one in four residents have a limited ability to read, speak, write or understand English, the lack of disclosure of language access services is particularly troubling. Without any knowledge of services that are available, LEP communities may be more vulnerable to the unscrupulous practices of certain debt collectors. The rules fulfill policy recommendations to amend debt collection regulations in DCWP’s report, Lost in Translation: Findings from Examination of Language Access by Debt Collectors
. Based on a study of the industry, the report found that there is a lack of language access services for LEP consumers in NYC offered by debt collection agencies. Without any laws in place requiring debt collection agencies to offer language access services to consumers, only a minority of collectors did.
The rules were effective June 27, 2020 but because of the pandemic and to aid industry compliance, DCWP delayed enforcement until October 1, 2020. DCWP also created FAQs
and a Language Services Report template for the industry, which are available at nyc.gov/dcwp.
Anyone seeking to collect debts from New Yorkers must be licensed by DCWP, which currently licenses more than 1,500 debt collection agencies in 45 states and 14 countries. Last year, DCWP received more than 340 complaints about debt collectors, often about debts the consumer doesn’t believe they owe.
If you are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19, you can request debt collectors stop contacting you about any existing debt(s). DCWP has created a joint letter
template, which is available in multiple languages
, that you can fill out and mail (required by federal law) so debt collectors can’t contact you until the State of Emergency in New York City has ended. DCWP encourages anyone who is contacted by a debt collector to review our Debt Collection Guide
to understand their rights and what a debt collector can and cannot do.
DCWP also encourages anyone who experienced a change in income and needs help creating a realistic budget, opening a bank account, or managing debt to make an appointment with a professional financial counselor at an NYC Financial Empowerment Center. Anyone who lives or works in New York City, can book an appointment for free, one-on-one financial counseling—which is currently mostly available via phone— at nyc.gov/TalkMoney
or by calling 311.
NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 59,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Abigail Lootens | Melissa Barosy
Department of Consumer and Worker Protection