Q: Is a debt collector required to honor a consumer’s request to opt out of electronic communications if the request does not conform to the debt collector’s opt-out instructions?
A: (UPDATED 7/27/2022)
Yes. A consumer is not required to use the debt collector’s preferred or stated opt-out method, or the specific terms contained in the debt collector’s opt-out instructions, to opt out of electronic communications from a debt collector about a debt.
The Debt Collection Rule generally prohibits debt collectors from communicating with consumers through a medium of communication, including a medium of electronic communication, if the consumer requests that the debt collector not use that medium. 12 CFR § 1006.14(h). And the Debt Collection Rule requires debt collectors who communicate electronically with consumers to include, in each electronic communication, a reasonable and simple method that the consumer may use to opt out of future electronic communications, the consumer is not required to use the debt collector’s method. 12 CFR § 1006.6(e). For example, assume that a debt collector emails a consumer and includes in the email the following reasonable and simple opt-out instruction: “Reply ‘unsubscribe’ to opt out of receiving further emails from us.” After receiving the email, the consumer calls the debt collector and asks the debt collector not to send any further emails. The debt collector must honor the consumer’s request. 12 CFR § 1006.14(h).
In general, a consumer’s use of the terms “stop,” “unsubscribe,” “end,” “quit,” or “cancel” is considered an opt-out request even if the specific term the consumer used is not contained in the debt collector’s opt-out instructions. See 12 CFR § 1006.6(e).
For more information on the Debt Collection Rule’s opt-out notice requirement, see Debt Collection Electronic Communication: Opt-out Notice Questions 1-3 and Section 5 of the Debt Collection Small Entity Compliance Guide.