Collector - March 2021 - 17
" Most agencies using text messaging today
are using it only in one direction. They send out
a message but want it to drive an inbound phone
call. It needs to be two-way. "
Beebe provides a few tips for agencies
planning to add text messaging to their
* Be educated. Understand what a
text is in the context of the applicable
regulations. Learn about what you
can and can't do, and put appropriate
texting policies in place.
* Evaluate your operations. Know what
your operation strategy is, what data
you have supporting that strategy and
how text messaging fits.
* Define success. Know your goal,
whether it's reducing the number
of agent conversations, reaching
consumers who won't speak with
agents, driving traffic to a portal or
something else. Having a goal in mind
will help during plan development.
* Develop and implement a plan.
Know what messages you want to
convey, understand what mobile
carriers will allow and develop a plan
that works within those limits for
your agency, your clients and their
" There's still a lot of education to be done, "
Beebe said. " So, I think it will be another
12-14 months before we see a lot of agencies
beginning heavy use of text messaging. "
As with all collection practices,
documenting and following comprehensive
policies and procedures is essential when
implementing text messaging.
" Nothing is ever going to be perfect, and,
fortunately, the new rule doesn't require us to
be perfect, " said Lauren Burnette, attorney with
Messer Strickler Ltd. " Make your policies beefy
and free of anything that could be exploited
as less than absolutely reasonable. If you're
reasonable, you're able to defend yourself. "
While agencies are likely to embrace the
CFPB's guidance expressly allowing text
messaging, the nature of the technology
raises some new questions, such as what
aspects of text messaging could give rise to
potential third-party disclosure issues.
" We're used to asking whether you can see
collection letter text through an envelope
window, " Burnette said. " We know what an
envelope is. For a text message, is there an
envelope? Is it the preview? Is it what you see
when you view the push notification? Are
there disclosure issues if the text message is
read aloud to you? "
Because the CFPB chose not to set specific
numeric guidelines for the frequency and
quantity of allowable text messages, the
question of what is reasonable will likely fall
on the courts.
" The bureau is saying you have to look at
communications in the aggregate, " Burnette
said. " What's harassment and what's
reasonable are factually specific questions.
The way this rule will bleed into lawsuits is
testing the boundaries of what volume of
text messaging alone and in combination
with other types of communication
attempts will be considered harassment. "
Although some gray areas about the
use of text messaging still exist, the CFPB
rule is a huge step forward for collection
agencies that have hesitated to jump in
without guidance and for consumers who
prefer to communicate via text rather than
by phone. In the months leading to the
rule's effective date in November, agencies
can begin taking steps to establish their text
Tim Dressen is a communications consultant
and former editor of Collector magazine.
The CFPB rule for debt
expressly allows for modern
including text messaging.
Successful use of
texting will depend on
education, planning, goal
setting and implementation.
clarity regarding texting
practices, some gray areas
remain, which will likely be
clariﬁed through litigation.
Collector - March 2021
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