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For those with medical debt, debt collection rules need an update

In 1977, Congress enacted the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a law designed to protect consumers from creditor harassment. The law has dictated what creditors and credit collection agencies can do, but as technology has changed the law is not as relevant as it used to be. Take, for example, using text messages to contact consumers. There is nothing in the 1977 law that prohibits credit collection agencies from using text messages, which is just one reason why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has announced that it plans to revise debt collection rules.

For individuals in Salem with medical debt, this is likely a welcome relief. With approximately 30 million people across the country with debt in collection, the possibility of creditor harassment is a serious problem. What's more, the bureau's proposed rules would cover medical debt.

The bureau's director has said that the bureau had been flooded about debt collection harassment this summer. Some of those complaints even included people who were being bothered about debts they either never had or debts that had already been paid off.

One of the growing concerns is the numerous calls that collection agencies are known to make. Though they have always called to bother those with unpaid debts, many people are now being contacted on their cellphones, disrupting their work and harassing them in public. It is very different to receive numerous calls throughout the day while in public than in the privacy of one's home.

The bureau is still coming up with its new rules and it is not entirely known when they will be made available or when they will go into effect.

Source: The New York Times, "Consumer Watchdog Takes Up Debt Collection," Ann Carrns, Nov. 8, 2013

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