FDCPA Unusual or Inconvenient FAQ 6 – Does an automatically generated electronic communication…, which is sent in response to a consumer action…, meet the limited exception for responding to consumer-initiated contact?

Compliance > FDCPA
Q:  Does an automatically generated electronic communication (such as a payment confirmation) sent at a time the debt collector knows or should know is inconvenient to the consumer, which is sent in response to a consumer action (such as a payment), meet the limited exception for responding to consumer-initiated contact?
 
A:   (UPDATED 7/27/2022)
 
There are three exceptions to the prohibition on communicating or attempting to communicate with a consumer about a debt at an unusual or inconvenient time or place:

Yes, but only if the automatically generated electronic communication is through the same communication medium that the consumer used to contact the debt collector or if the debt collector obtains, during the consumer-initiated contact, direct prior consent to send the response through a different medium.

As discussed in Debt Collection Unusual or Inconvenient Times or Places Question 5, there is a limited exception for responding to consumer-initiated contact that states that, if a consumer initiates a communication with a debt collector at an inconvenient time or place, the debt collector does not violate the prohibition on communicating at inconvenient times or places if the debt collector responds once at that time or place through the same medium of communication used by the consumer. 12 CFR § 1006.6(b)(1); Comment 6(b)(1)-2.
 
Thus, for example, if a debt collector’s system generates an automated email reply in response to a consumer-initiated email at a time that the consumer previously designated as inconvenient, this system-generated reply would meet the limited consumer-initiated exception and not violate the prohibition on communications at inconvenient times or places. Similarly, if the consumer submits a payment through the debt collector’s web portal, an immediate pop-up message on the portal confirming payment would not violate the prohibition. In contrast, if the consumer submits a payment through the debt collector’s web portal at a time that the consumer previously designated as inconvenient, and the debt collector sends an automatically generated email in response, the limited exception would not apply because the debt collector
communicated using a different communication medium.

If a debt collector wishes to send the consumer an automated communication at a previously designated inconvenient time using a different communication medium than the one the consumer used, the debt collector would need to obtain the consumer’s prior direct consent. In the example above, where a consumer submits a payment through the debt collector’s web portal at a previously designated inconvenient time, if the debt collector wanted to send the consumer an automated payment confirmation by email at the previously designated inconvenient time, the debt collector could include language requesting the consumer’s permission to send an automatically generated payment confirmation email in, for example, a pop-up message or check box at the time of payment. If the consumer provides their consent for an automatically generated email confirmation at the time of payment, then the debt collector could immediately send a confirmation email without violating the prohibition on communicating at an inconvenient time.
 
For more information on the prohibition on communicating at unusual or inconvenient times and places, see Debt Collection Unusual or Inconvenient Times or Places Questions 1-3 and Section 4.1 in the Debt Collection Small Entity Compliance Guide. For more information on the  exception to this prohibition, see Debt Collection Unusual or Inconvenient Times or Places Question 5 and Section 4.4 in the Debt Collection Small Entity Compliance Guide.
 
 
 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
This Q&A was created based on information from CFPB’s website (which may be updated from time to time) that provides Debt Collection Rule FAQs.  This information may be found on CFPB’s website here:  https://www.consumerfinance.gov/compliance/compliance-resources/other-applicable-requirements/debt-collection/debt-collection-rule-faqs/#validation-information
 

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