Collector - September 2016 - (Page 8)
Should Your Collectors
Have Email Accounts?
How some agencies are handling this tricky issue.
By Anne Rosso May
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
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.
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
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
"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."
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
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Collector - September 2016
5 Ways to Get Electronic Payments Right
Making the Connection
Curious About Amicus Curiae?
Know the Score
What Creditors Need to Know About the TCPA
ACA Industry Advancement Support Helps Secure Victory for Collection Industry in FDCPA Case
Collector - September 2016