CFPB FDCPA – What is a “limited-content message?”

Compliance > FDCPA
Q:   What is a “limited-content message?”
 
A:   The Debt Collection Rule adds the term “limited-content message” and clarifies that a limited-content message is an attempt to communicate but is not a communication for purposes of the Rule.  Thus, a limited-content message is subject to the requirements and prohibitions that apply to attempts to communicate. However, a limited-content message is not subject to the requirements and prohibitions that apply only to communications. For example, a limited-content message is not an initial or subsequent communication requiring the disclosures discussed in Section 11 of the small entity compliance guide.

Definition

A “limited-content message” is a voicemail message for a consumer that includes all of the content that the Debt Collection Rule requires to be included in a limited-content message, that may include any of the content that the Rule permits to be included in a limited-content message, and that includes no other content. 12 CFR 1006.2(j). A voicemail message that includes any content other than the content required and permitted pursuant to the Rule is not a limited-content message and might be a communication depending on its content.

If a call drops and results in a partial message that does not include all of the required content, that message is not a limited-content message. However, such a message is not necessarily a communication under the Debt Collection Rule.
 
Content required or permitted in a limited-content message

The Debt Collection Rule requires that a limited-content message include all of the following:
  • A business name for the debt collector that does not indicate that the caller is in the business of collecting debts. Because the Debt Collection Rule notes that a consumer could use the business name included in the message to conduct research regarding the caller, a message does not fail to be a limited-content message merely because a person who hears the message researches the debt collector’s business name, and in doing so, determines that the caller is in the business of debt collection. In addition, leaving a limited-content message does not violate the Debt Collection Rule’s requirement to meaningfully disclose the caller’s identity with respect to that voicemail message. Comment 1006.2(j)-3.
  • A request that the consumer reply to the message.
  • The name or names of one or more natural persons whom the consumer can contact to reply to the debt collector.
  • A telephone number that the consumer can use to reply to the debt collector.
     
In addition to the content described above, the Debt Collection Rule permits a limited-content message to include:

1. A salutation.
2. The date and time of the message.
3. Suggested dates and times for the consumer to reply to the message
4. A statement that, if the consumer replies, the consumer may speak to any of the company’s representatives or associates. However, a message that includes a more detailed description of the representative or associate group is not a limited-content message. For example, a reference to an agent with the “credit card receivables group” is not a limited-content message because it includes more than a statement that the consumer’s reply may be answered by a representative or associate. Comment 1006.2(j)(2)-1
 
 
This Q&A was created based on information from the CFPB’s Debt Collection Rule Small Entity Compliance Guide - April 2021 (which may be updated from time to time).  This may be found on the CFPB’s website here:  https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/cfpb_debt-collection_small-entity-compliance-guide.pdf
 

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