BY KIRSTEN E. PAULSON
Congressman Gregory Meeks introduced a bill last week designed to bolster protections for consumers against unfair and abusive debt collection practices.
The Debt Collection Harmonization Act would build upon the Fair Debt Collection Protection Act (FDCPA) by treating all third-party debt collectors the same. Currently, the FDCPA prevents collectors of consumer debt from acting abusively toward debtors; however, debt collectors hired by government agencies are exempt from the law and often ignore mandated protection standards. The Debt Collection Harmonization Act would extend the FDCPA to protect people against abuse from government debt collectors as well.
The act would also prevent private debt collection companies from collecting debt associated with natural disasters. Instead, the Department of Treasury would be required to manage debt associated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“The Debt Collection Harmonization Act will extend consumer protection to non-consumer, government-related debt such as parking tickets, and prevent third-party debt collectors from harassing individuals, threatening them, or ignoring their requests simply because the underlying debt is owed to the government,” Meeks said. “Essentially, the bill will treat all third-party debt collectors similarly, regardless of the underlying source of debt.”