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Pennsylvania Bill Would Drastically Limit Telephone Calls to Debtors

Stephanie Eidelman –

On Nov. 20, Pennsylvania Senators Greenleaf, Tartaglione, Rafferty and Pileggi introduced SB 1072,which was referred to the Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee. The legislation, if enacted, would the limit the number of telephone communications that a creditor or debt collector may have with a debtor to three, total.

The legislation amends the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act by adding the following as an unfair act or deceptive practice:

(b.1) Limitation on telephone contacts with consumers.

(1) It shall constitute an unfair or deceptive debt collection act or practice under this act if a debt collector or creditor communicates with a consumer regarding a debt more than three times by telephone.

(2) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit a debt collector or creditor from communicating with a consumer regarding a debt on a fourth or subsequent time by another form of communication, other than telephone.

One obvious problem with the bill, apart from the drastic limitation, is that it makes no provision for debtors who actually want to continue the conversation beyond three calls to resolve their debt, or for calls initiated by debtors. Presumably, voicemail left for a debtor would count toward the total.

SB 1072 goes far beyond the Massachusetts regulation, frequently lauded by consumer advocates, that prohibits calls “in excess of two such communications in each seven-day period to a consumer’s residence or cellular telephone and two such communications in each 30-day period other than at a consumer’s residence, or cellular telephone for each debt. . .” 209 CMR 18.1418.14(1)(d).

In a Memorandum to his fellow Senators, Senator Greenleaf explains that the legislation is necessary due to the volume of debt collection complaints received by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He concludes that the bill “will further protect consumers from harassment or abuse in connection with debt collection, while still allowing businesses to collect debts owed to them.”