I always loved Al Franken as a comedian. Saturday Night Live was never better than when he was there.
Now I’ve fallen in love with him as a Senator. Actions always speak louder than words and his actions show him to be a man of principle, not a politician who busies himself just playing politics.
In 2010 I took note when Sen. Franken took up the cause of debt collection reform by introducing legislation dubbed “The End Debt Collector Abuse Act” which was an attempt to update the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the prevailing law regulating debt collection activities.
Unfortunately it failed and, in the interim, debt collection abuse has gotten significantly worse.
If Sen. Franken didn’t really care about helping the neediest among us and reforming the broken debt collection industry, that would have been the end of it. Forever he would be able to tell constituents “I tried” — giving him the bona fides to prove himself pro-consumer.
That’s not what happened.
This summer Senator Franken has updated and reintroduced the bill, which is now called “End Debt Collector Abuse Act of 2012.” One of the parts I like the most is the increased information debt collectors will be required to present when trying to collect a debt. Because of shoddy record keeping, many 3rd party debt collectors employ the method of “sue ‘em all and let the courts sort ‘em out.” This legislation would go a long way to ending that abuse by requiring information in the validation letter to include:
- The date of the last payment made and amount of the debt at the time of that payment
- Itemization of principal, fees and interest making up the debt, including any charges imposed since the date of the last payment
- Disclosure of the consumer’s right to request the collector cease communication and to have collection efforts cease under certain circumstances already set forth within the FDCPA
- Identification of a person at the debt collector responsible for handling complaints
Additionally it clears up the loophole of mistreatment by creditors (not just 3rd party collectors.) And, importantly, the debt no longer has to be overdue for the regulations to apply.
All very good, useful and appropriate changes.
While I’m not so Pollyanna to think that given the proximity to the election that it will get passed now, we should all appreciate Sen. Franken for keeping the issue alive and public.
This way, maybe the 3rd time will be the charm.
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