Collector - March 2020 - 22

ADDRESSING COMPLIANCE
Regardless of how agencies use texting
within their collection processes,
compliance needs to be top of mind.
Gaining consent to text and providing
an easy method to discontinue texts
are essential for agencies currently
communicating with consumers by SMS.
"A lot of collection systems in use today
were never designed to properly support
text messaging, especially when it comes
to initial consent capture and ongoing
consent management, which is the key to
texting," said Rob Fite, vice president of
business development and marketing for
Telrock, a collection software provider that
offers embedded digital channel messaging
capabilities with their collection software
solutions. "In many cases, collection
organizations have to rely on the notes
section in their collection system to record
consent rather than having dedicated
consent fields/indicators in their collector
screens and in their system database.
Without this capability to properly record
consent permission, it is very difficult to
ascertain if they have it already, and/or
whether permission is still valid. That can
be a big issue from not only a compliance
perspective but also from an operational
perspective. Without taking a holistic,
systematic approach to capturing and
managing consent, it's difficult to do efficient,
automated and compliant texting."
Monroe offers a few key questions to
consider when relying on consent granted
via the original creditors. "If your clients
have consent, how do they manage it?" she
asked. "How do they manage revocation
of consent? How do they manage gaining
consent if they don't have it already? Is there
a reasonable process in place to manage
consent, particularly if debt has changed
hands and been purchased over time?
One of the things any agency needs to do
if they want to feel completely confident is

22

think about how they could manage their
own consent process."
Bonitzer's agency accepts consent in
two ways:
*	 If an agent is speaking with a consumer
and requests information by text, the
agent triggers a message containing
a five-digit authorization code. The
consumer reads it back to the agent, who
enters it into the system to confirm the
opt-in.
*	 Collection letters contain a message
encouraging recipients to text a specific
keyword to the agency's SMS shortcode
to communicate with the agency by text.
In either scenario, the consumer then
receives an auto-response message,
confirming the opt-in, specifying that
messaging rates apply, containing a link to
the mini-Miranda and including instructions
for opting out at any time by texting "STOP."
The opt-in event is recorded by the
text messaging service provider's system
and by the agency's collection software
system. The system automatically blocks
any text messages without an opt-in or
after a consumer has opted out. It also
regularly verifies phone numbers with
telecommunications carriers and treats any
phone number that has been deactivated as
an opt-out.
"I keep my ear to the ground, and I'm not
aware of a single case where there's been
liability from texting after opt-in," Bonitzer
said. "If you use the technology responsibly
and follow some common-sense guidelines,
you'll be in great shape. It's an excellent
channel to conduct business."
Texting may be a relatively new frontier
for collection-related communication, but
it's far from the wild, wild West. Texting
practices mirror calling practices in several
ways. Distributing scheduled texts within
traditional calling hours and limiting the
volume of texts will minimize consumer
disruption, opt-outs and complaints.

TEXT MESSAGING REGULATIONS
The CFPB's proposed rules are
generating interest from more agencies
who may want to add texting to
their communication mix, but aren't
necessarily affecting those who have
already implemented a texting program.
"The proposed rules have stimulated
a lot of conversation and reinforced
what they could already be doing,"
Cantrell said. "Now that the legal teams
have become more comfortable, the
permission requirements are defined and
the protections solutions are in place, the
agencies are asking for the implementation
roadmap. The early adopters have already
experienced exponential success and
now the CFPB proposed rule changes are
breaking down the walls of resistance."
The proposed rules haven't changed
Bonitzer's practices.
"The rules say what you can and can't do,
and most, if not all of them, are common
sense," he said. "We use technology
responsibly, so I haven't seen how it would
affect my operation in a negative manner."
Not everyone is a fan of the CFPB's
proposed rules, however. In June 2019,
24 U.S. senators called on the bureau to
reconsider its proposed rules relating
to text messaging and emailing. They
expressed concerns about consumers
being bombarded with unwanted messages
from collectors.
"What they are implying is that it's
better for consumers to have seven phone
calls per week per debt than to receive
SMS and email," Monroe said. "They are
particularly concerned about 'unlimited'
text messages and emails, and I would
not be in favor of that either. I believe
they potentially misunderstand the selfregulating nature of these channels. Just
like email providers use algorithms to send
messages to spam folders, phone carriers
are starting to do the same, deciding for a

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