New Credit Reporting Rules for Debt Collectors

A new federal law prohibits a debt collector from telling a credit reporting agency about a debt before either speaking to the consumer or sending a debt validation notice and then waiting to make sure it's delivered.

By , Attorney

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (15 U.S.C. § 1692 and following) protects consumers from abusive debt collectors. This federal law limits what collectors can and can't do when collecting debts. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently issued a new rule that limits when a debt collector can report information about a debt to credit reporting agencies.

As of November 30, 2021, an amendment to Regulation F, which implements the FDCPA, says that a debt collector can't report a debt to the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, before first contacting the consumer. The debt collector must:

  • speak to the consumer in person or by phone or
  • mail a letter or send an electronic message, like an email, about the debt to the consumer and then wait a "reasonable period of time" (at least 14 consecutive days) to see if a notice of undeliverability comes back.

If the collector gets a notice that the letter or message was undeliverable, the collector can't report the debt to the credit reporting agencies unless it achieves communication as detailed above. (12 C.F.R. § 1006.30(a)(1) and Official Interpretation of 30(a)(1)).

But the prohibition on reporting the debt doesn't apply "to a debt collector's furnishing of information about a debt to a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency that compiles and maintains information on a consumer's check writing history." (Specialty consumer reporting agencies, also called "specialty credit reporting agencies," keep records on particular types of transactions, like tenant histories, insurance claims, and check writing histories.)

If you're concerned about the information that a specialty credit reporting agency has about you, you can get a free credit report each year from each agency. To get a list of most credit reporting agencies and contact information for those agencies, categorized by type, go to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website. These reports are in addition to your yearly free credit report from each of the three main nationwide credit reporting agencies.

Effective date: November 30, 2021