Collector - September 2016 - (Page 8)

BESTPRACTICES Should Your Collectors Have Email Accounts? How some agencies are handling this tricky issue. By Anne Rosso May H ave you checked your email today? The question is almost ludicrous-of course you have. In fact, the average person sends and receives 122 business emails and 93 personal emails each day, according to a Radicati Group report. But on the collection f loor, it's a different story. Despite email's undeniable benefits- which include convenience, easy documentation and reduced postage costs-it can introduce great risks in the collection environment. Email can be relatively easy to hack into or be viewed by third parties, whether the disclosure is intentional or not. It's also extremely easy for collection professionals to say the wrong thing in an email. "The spoken word is temporary-the written word is permanent," said John Smith, general manager at American Collections Enterprise. We asked several ACA International members how they handle employee access to email, and they offered these tips. GET THE CONSUMER'S BLESSING While not directly prohibited by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, emails to consumers introduce several potential pitfalls that may result in compliance violations. Collectors sending emails must be mindful of third-party disclosure risks, including the location of the consumer as well as his true identity. Hunter Quinn, collections manager at Continental Credit Control, said that without a mechanism for consumer identity authentication in place, he thinks allowing collectors to email consumers is just too risky. 08 Obtaining written documentation that the consumer consented to receive email communications-as well as a current email address provided by the consumer-is not required for debt collection purposes, but may help protect your company from an inadvertent third-party disclosure. Felipe Ossa, chief compliance officer at Assets Recovered LLC, noted that while his company does occasionally get email communication consent from consumers, "it happens so seldom that I can count how many times on both my hands." He said that it's usually from consumers who have moved overseas and who want to get emails "because of time zone restrictions." If consumers do give their consent to be 24% contacted through email, it may be safest to let a supervisor or manager handle those communications. While Quinn said his company sometimes receives email communications from consumers through its website, when collection managers respond they "advise the consumer that we cannot provide account information via email," he said. "And then we follow-up by mail or telephone only." WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE Case law has demonstrated that emails are considered "writings," which means that under the FDCPA, all emails sent to consumers are treated in the same way as a letter sent via the U.S. Postal Service. Don't put anything in an email to a consumer that you would not put in your mailed, hard-copy letters. And make sure your emails include required federal and state disclosures. "Collectors are subject to emotions, and as such could respond by email in a curt or rude manner shortly after the conclusion of a communication with a consumer," Smith said. "We choose to eliminate it as a conduit for venting." One workaround is to only allow employees to send out form emails that have been vetted by managers and legal counsel. This approach may help lessen the risk of employees using a wrong word or releasing unauthorized information. Assets Recovered doesn't allow any contact with consumers via email, but senior collectors and skiptracers who need to communicate with outside parties (clients or vendors mostly) do have email accounts. Supervisors periodically review these outgoing messages to make sure they OF AMERICANS BELIEVE THEY CHECK THEIR EMAIL "WAY TOO MUCH." SOURCE: ADOBE are meeting company requirements. "It's an ongoing process," Ossa said. "We use system templates, and as long as they use the template, their emails will be reviewed maybe once a month. But if they are sending free-form emails, the system will flag them so that they will get more regular spot checks" to ensure the content meets company guidelines. Smith said that at American Collections Enterprise, only commercial collectors- who are typically the company's most tenured and productive collectors-have email privileges. ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Collector - September 2016

Upfront
Industry News
Best Practices
FYI
Collection Tips
5 Ways to Get Electronic Payments Right
Making the Connection
Curious About Amicus Curiae?
Calendar
Honor Roll
Small Talk
Know the Score
What Creditors Need to Know About the TCPA
ACA Industry Advancement Support Helps Secure Victory for Collection Industry in FDCPA Case
Compliance
ACA SearchPoint
Last Word

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