Technology-driven issues will be one of the concerns considered by the CFPB in 2015. In the New Technologies and the Regulatory Framework section of an InsideARM.com article, the author states, “The eventual rule is likely to mark the first time that a federal agency has comprehensively extended consumer protections to new communications technologies….Whether leaving a voice mail, registering inbound caller ID information, or sending messages via social media, debt collectors will likely get clarity regarding permissible forms of contact, requirements for stating identity and purpose, and prohibitions regarding inappropriate third-party disclosures. Further, there could be additional restrictions such as limiting text messages.”
This concern for the use of new communications technologies raises a broader question, “What new technologies will be available to debt collectors in 2015, and how can we ensure they are being used within the law?”
Contact Center Technology
New trends and buzzwords in the contact center industry are trickling down to collection agencies and law firms that use their technology in this specialized niche. Look for talk and technology that is changing the face of:
- Workforce optimization: Achieving a higher level of performance is possible through technology that uses Key Performance Indicators (KPI)to evaluate its success, or the success of particular activities.
- Remote Agents: Data security concerns if agents work from home are lessening as new technology reduces security risks. Working remotely also allows agents to keep working during bad weather or other disasters.
- Speech biometrics: Voice biometrics verifies callers’ identity through unique patterns in the voice. Banks are especially interested in using this technology to improve the security of transactions and customer access to account information.
- The Cloud: DMG Consulting reports that cloud-based (hosted) technology is the fastest growing segment in the call center industry, predicted to almost double between 2013 and 2015. Monthly payments and reduced up-front costs make it appealing for small and medium-sized businesses.
- Bilingual options: If you manage a call center that doesn’t offer at least one call-in language option—most frequently Spanish in the U.S.—you could be selling your business short. Technology is making it easier to route calls based on language.
- Gamification: The most successful call centers use some form of motivation to keep their workers focused on the job at hand. Now there’s new technology and a new name—Gamification—for reaching similar goals with less effort and easier tracking of results.
- Behavioral Analytics: An algorithm-driven collections process uses behavioral analytics and machine learning to build a profile of the consumer and figure out the right course of action to collect on a debt.
Technology for Collecting Medical Debt
The collection of medical debt is being impacted by healthcare providers who are implementing advanced technologies, allowing tech-savvy patients to pay through online portals, pre-funded accounts and mobile payments etc. In Oct. of 2014, a federal judge in California ruled in favor of a defendant in a TCPA case by deciding that a platform for sending out text messages did not meet the definition of an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS). The ruling is seen as positive precedent.
Online debt negotiation solutions enable patients to arrange a more manageable level of repayment through agentless online debt negotiation software. Patients can deal with their debt problem privately, without having to talk to a billing department or collection agency, and they can negotiate a payment schedule they are comfortable with. This plan is then automatically integrated into the organizations’ accounts receivable systems. The technology also enables recurring payments. To oversee the process, organizations can automatically generate reminder emails or auto-dial a customer if a problem occurs – all boosting payment success rates.
The industry’s leading process service companies are now deploying sophisticated technology and mobile devices to provide evidence that legal documents are properly served and that collections agencies and attorneys are providing defendants proper notice of legal proceedings. Process serving companies can track and record the movement of their process servers to protect the integrity of the legal system and eliminate faulty service. With the proper technology solution in place, ethical conduct can be measured and rewarded financially just as successful service has been in the past.
Legal Issues with New Technology
How can consumer debt collection attorneys and agencies be sure they are using new technology legally? The main concerns are:
- The risk of violating the FDCPA’s prohibitions on communicating with a debtor at an inconvenient time or place
- Communications with third parties
- Harassment or abuse in connection with the collection of a debt
- Causing charges to be made to any person for communications by concealment of the true purpose of the communication,
- Potential violations under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
These issues have not been thoroughly addressed by the courts, but some guidance has been provided through academic analysis. It behooves all of us to do our research and stay up-to-date on the concerns being considered by the CFPB and the resulting rulings, along with FDCPA cases and their outcomes.
by Marti Lythgoe, National List Editor