The New CFPB Rules Are Here: You Can Now Contact Customers About Payment Through Social Media
Social media has hardly improved anyone’s personal relationships, but it has been beneficial to businesses of all sizes. Businesses have benefited from user-generated content that mentions their brands or products, and the popularity of a business spreads even more quickly on social media than it does through old-fashioned word of mouth. During the lean early years of a small business, there are few more effective sources of much needed encouragement than logging onto Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media platform and seeing how many people love your products and your brand. Collecting payment through What’s App and other online platforms has also been a boon to small businesses. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau guidelines allow businesses to contact customers via social media about unpaid bills, but you should do this at your own risk. A Washington DC small business lawyer can answer your questions about collecting payment, engaging online with customers, and other potentially conflict-prone situations.
What Constitutes Harassment When Creditors Contact Borrowers on Social Media?
Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau updated its guidelines about business-to-consumer communications regarding debt collection, and the new guidelines went into effect this month; it was the first update to the guidelines in more than 40 years. According to the new guidelines, it is possible for businesses to contact customers that owe them money through private direct messages on social media. The CFPB indicates the following details regarding what businesses can and cannot do regarding contacting consumers about money they owe to the businesses:
- The communication can only be through direct messages visible only to the recipient, not public messages or comments posted on the consumer’s social media account.
- The business must identify itself and indicate that the purpose of its communication is to collect payment of a debt.
- The message must state that the recipient has the right to stop receiving messages of this nature, and it must indicate what the borrower should do to get the business to stop contacting them.
The CFPB guidelines aim to define creditor harassment in order to prevent it. For example, they specify that, if a creditor converses by phone with a borrower, the creditor must wait at least seven days before contacting the borrower again; anything beyond that is harassment. Unfortunately, the new guidelines leave some details about contacting consumers on social media open to interpretation. The guidelines are clear that posting publicly visible messages on social media about a borrower’s unpaid debt constitutes harassment. As with debt collection communications by phone, postal mail, or other means, the creditor must specify what the borrower must do in order not to receive further communications about the debt. They are less clear about how frequently creditors can message consumers that owe them money.
Reach Out to Us Today for Help
A small business lawyer can help you collect the debts you can collect and live without the ones you cannot. Contact Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing for a consultation.