Notice of Adoption - Debt Collectors

Adopted Rules: Closed to Comments

Effective Date: 
Saturday, June 27, 2020
Download Copy of Adopted Rule (.pdf): 

Statement of Basis and Purpose of Rule

The Department is adding new rules that require debt collectors to inform consumers about whether certain language access services are available and to retain records relating to language access services.

Approximately a quarter of the population of New York City does not understand English proficiently. Many debt collectors working to collect debts from New York City consumers, however, are not providing adequate language access services to consumers. For more background on this issue, see the Department’s publication, “Lost in Translation: Findings from Examination of Language Access by Debt Collectors.” This publication highlights the lack of language access services provided for limited-English proficiency (LEP) consumers by debt collection agencies.

These new rules enable consumers who require language access services to better understand their rights with respect to debt collection and to facilitate communication between collectors and LEP consumers. The recordkeeping requirements allow the Department to ensure that LEP consumers are receiving sufficient information when contacted by a debt collector. The prohibited practices ensure that debt collectors are not engaging in deceptive or unfair conduct with respect to language access.

Specifically, these new rules require debt collectors to:

• Inform consumers—in any initial collection notice and on any public-facing websites maintained by the collector—of the availability of any language access services provided by the collector and of a translation and description of commonly-used debt collection terms in a consumer’s preferred language on the Department’s website;

• Request, record, and retain, to the extent reasonably possible, a record of the language preference of each consumer from whom the collector attempts to collect a debt; and

• Maintain a report identifying, by language, the number of consumer accounts on which an employee of the collector attempted to collect a debt in a language other than English, and the number of employees that attempted to collect on such accounts.

These rules also prohibit debt collectors from:

• Providing false, inaccurate, or incomplete translations of any communication to a consumer in the course of attempting to collect a debt; and

• Misrepresenting or omitting a consumer’s language preference when returning, selling, or referring for litigation any consumer account, where the debt collector is aware of such preference.