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Government Operations and Constituent Service: A Look Ahead to 2020

Government Operations and Constituent Service: A Look Ahead to 2020

If necessity is the mother of invention, the government sector’s growing push for change in the form of greater accountability, increased efficiency, and improved public service is bound to gain steam in 2020. In fact, 2020 could be both a breaking point and a banner year for public entities nationwide.

 

As we enter this new decade, the processes and standards many courts and government offices have long relied upon are no longer adequate for them, their constituents, or the taxpaying public. Employees are feeling the squeeze from all sides as they attempt to better serve stakeholders’ interests with limited resources and little room to maneuver.

 

It’s a tough bind. And it will only get tougher in 2020.

 

Meanwhile, a growing number of public officials at the local, state, and federal levels who are dissatisfied with subpar performance and results via antiquated systems and tools will be actively searching for a better way. Their frustrations will drive transformational change that, until recently, might have been beyond the ability of most government entities to achieve.

 

Without a doubt, 2020 offers the potential for big returns for those who go bold in pursuit of progress. Based on my discussions with public officials, the solutions available to them today, and what some of them have already accomplished, here is my list of the top challenges and opportunities I believe await government entities in 2020.

 

Top 3 Concerns for Government Operations in 2020

None of these concerns are new. But as they intensify, they will force more government offices to take significant steps to streamline their operations and engage constituents and the public more effectively.

 

1. Shrinking Budgets
Courts rely heavily on fines and fees paid by constituents involved in criminal cases. As a result of shrinking taxpayer funds, government operations outside the courts’ purview are increasingly relying on these same compliance revenues. Funding mechanisms may change down the road, but for now, operational efficiency and effectiveness of compliance efforts will continue to be mission-critical concerns.

 

2. Resource Constraints
Executing case management and compliance functions consistently, efficiently, and in a manner that builds public trust requires resources and expertise that are lacking in many courts and government offices. In the absence of sophisticated tools and automated workflows, employees face overwhelming workloads and are ill equipped to manage regulatory concerns in a digital environment. These constraints will only become more problematic as case volumes, service demands, and public pressures grow.

 

3. Public and Legislative Demands for Change
Public and legislative scrutiny of government practices and stewardship of taxpayer dollars is reaching a fever pitch. Some of the same fundamental issues that drive wasteful inefficiency inside government operations also result in perceptions of unfairness among constituents and the public at large.

 

Compliance processes are largely to blame—including, but not limited to, court systems’ premature escalations of unpaid fines to fees to outside collection agencies (OCAs). Because many courts lack the personnel and/or infrastructure required to communicate with constituents in a timely way and to facilitate payments on constituents’ terms, OCAs remain the default.

 

An overly aggressive approach to debt recovery not only costs taxpayers more, but also undercuts courts’ efforts to nurture compliance and ensure case closures. Worst of all, it can have a disparate impact on poor and minority communities. In the state of Florida, 72% of driver’s license suspensions are the result of outstanding fines and fees (currently, about 2 million residents)—preventing many constituents from getting to school or work and contributing productively to society.

 

In 2020, as more courts find they have fewer levers to pull to motivate constituents to make payments, we’ll likely see more community leaders and legislators draw attention to standard government practices and call for reform.

 

3 Positive Trends That Will Accelerate in 2020

The above pressures will make it increasingly difficult for courts to meet minimum operating standards, let alone measure up against the private sector—a goal that has traditionally been seen as too ambitious.

 

Today, that mindset is changing. There’s a growing recognition that government must hold itself to the highest possible standards and meet constituents where they are; that meaningful, measurable progress is essential; and that technology is key to achieving these ends.

 

1.  More Courts Taking Ownership of Compliance
Due to limited resources and a lack of automated processes, many courts turn cases over to OCAs prematurely or without any internal effort to collect payment. The often abrupt nature of OCA demands frustrates defendants who may have been willing to pay their debts, thus adding to an already eroding and fragile public trust.

 

Government agencies, court systems, and municipalities looking to rebuild that trust will be increasingly motivated to bring compliance operations in house while making best use of the resources they have.

 

2. A Greater Emphasis on Constituent-Friendly Service
To fulfill their public service mission, use tax dollars wisely, and nurture compliance effectively, a growing number of courts are reaching out to the public in helpful ways. Compliance and reporting processes that offer clarity, transparency, convenience, and ease are helping courts improve their recovery rates—dramatically, in many cases—and resolve cases more quickly, benefiting constituents and taxpayers alike.

 

In 2020, look for online portals, payment options and plans, and communication via constituents’ preferred channels to become more widespread.

 

3. Wider Adoption of Tech-Powered Automation
Insufficient staff, manual workflows, and inexperience with laws and regulations governing constituent communications—these are among the biggest obstacles to progress. Today, courts and other administrative offices are overcoming them through the use of next-generation technologies that transform government operations into lean, high-performance machines.

 

Automated workflows and constituent communications with built-in compliance guardrails are helping government teams do more with less by making case management and compliance processes more effective with less human effort. Employees have the insights they need to prioritize accounts, and reporting requirements can be met with ease. Automation not only reduces employee burdens, but also lowers costs, reduces compliance risks, and vastly improve outcomes.

 

As more government entities automate their operations in 2020, you’ll see less of a gap between the public and private sectors on key performance measures.

 

Overall, Less Patience for the Status Quo

Dissatisfaction with outdated, underperforming systems will likely become even more widespread in 2020, given the untenable position in which many courts and other government offices find themselves. Public officials are increasingly looking to implement an “all of the above” approach to serving the public and improving accountability and results, with capabilities such as text, artificial intelligence, chat bots, online portals, and timely, reliable reporting.

 

The private sector is already using these capabilities to maximize profits and serve customers well. Now, many in government are eager to bring the same sophistication and benefits to their own operations. In 2020, they’ll increasingly look beyond government-only providers and seek out tech partners that have experience serving private-sector collection teams and bringing disruptive, industry-leading innovations to market.

 

Nurture Compliance with Efficiency and Ease

If you’re looking to bring compliance processes up to speed for better service and results, get started today with a free demo of our government collection solutions. You’ll see right away what leading-edge technology and dedicated support can help you achieve.

Disclaimer: Ontario Systems is a technology company and provides this blog article solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Ontario Systems’ advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Ontario Systems’ efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.

© 2020 Ontario Systems, LLC. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is subject to change. Reproduction of this publication is not permitted without the express permission of Ontario Systems, LLC.

Government Operations and Constituent Service: A Look Ahead to 2020

Government Operations and Constituent Service: A Look Ahead to 2020

If necessity is the mother of invention, the government sector’s growing push for change in the form of greater accountability, increased efficiency, and improved public service is bound to gain steam in 2020. In fact, 2020 could be both a breaking point and a banner...

Data Privacy Laws: Is Your Business Ready for What’s Coming?

Data Privacy Laws: Is Your Business Ready for What’s Coming?

On July 11 in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted #DataDoneRight, a one-day summit highlighting the policy issues surrounding businesses’ use of consumer data. It was an engaging, eye-opening event that drew together a variety of stakeholders and...

News You Can Use: The Ontario Systems Blog, Version 2.0

News You Can Use: The Ontario Systems Blog, Version 2.0

Whether you’re a longtime subscriber or an occasional reader, you probably know what to expect from the Ontario Systems blog. Over the past five years, we’ve done our best to tackle complex industry issues, challenge norms, and offer expert advice for improving...

Why Ransomware Is Serious Business (and How to Minimize the Threat)

Why Ransomware Is Serious Business (and How to Minimize the Threat)

Everywhere you look these days, it’s in the headlines: another healthcare network, business, or government entity has suffered a debilitating ransomware attack. What used to be a curiosity is now a raging epidemic that shows no signs of slowing—and no sector is immune. By 2021, ransomware damages could cost the world $20 billion (57 times more than in 2015).
 
Even worse, cybercriminals are shifting their strategy. Not only are they demanding larger sums of money—from a few thousand dollars to upwards of $50,000 in just the past few years—but they’re increasingly targeting small and midsize businesses, which may be less sophisticated on the IT front and more willing to pay.
 
I recently sat down with Steve Lodin, senior director of cybersecurity operations/corporate security at Sallie Mae, to discuss this growing threat. We also offered advice for organizations looking to harden their defenses and prepare to respond in the event of an attack.
 
Here are a few highlights from our webinar, “Be Smart, Take Charge: What You Need to Know About Cybersecurity and Ransomware Prevention, Detection, and Response” (you can access the free webinar here).
 
 

How Does Ransomware Work?

Ransomware is malicious code that’s designed to encrypt files on an infected system or storage device to prevent the owner of the data from accessing it. Cybercriminals demand a ransom in return for a decryption key.
 
Ransomware can infiltrate in various ways. Among the most common are phishing emails containing embedded links and innocent-looking email attachments. Email attachments don’t have to contain ransomware code; once opened or downloaded, they can simply run additional code that instructs the host system to download ransomware code from a website.
 
Think about what this means. Among tens, hundreds, or thousands of employees, it takes just one person, one email, one visit to a malicious website. Once that ransomware code finds a vulnerability in the host environment, it can take over in short order.
 
Now, here’s the really bad news: paying these criminals doesn’t always bring data back. In fact, according to a 2017 study, only 26% of businesses that paid a ransom in 2017 received a decryption key. (Of those organizations that paid, 73% were attacked again.)
 
 

How Can You Protect Your Business and Limit the Fallout?

Every organization needs a three-pronged approach to effectively address the ransomware threat: prevention, detection, and response. You’ll want to begin with proactive measures that lessen your odds of a successful attack and limit your vulnerabilities when ransomware strikes.
 
 
SYSTEMS
  • Limit access to your systems, including local admin access (the principle of least privileges).
  • Ensure your system is patched, along with third-party apps like Adobe and Flash.
  • Secure the system with antivirus, anti-malware, and email security services that block known threats; implement tools that scan incoming emails or flag employee activity on known malicious websites.
  • Invest in good data backups.
  • Evaluate and monitor connections with third-party vendors. Allow access only as required for them to provide services, and only on network segments they need.
 
PEOPLE
  • Instruct employees to report suspected phishing emails.
  • Communicate with employees about current ransomware threats.
  • Test employees periodically with sample phishing emails and unfamiliar attachments to maintain awareness.
 
PLANNING
  • Create an incident response plan, ideally involving IT, legal counsel, internal and client communications, and forensic analysis; test and refine it regularly based on newly identified weaknesses and threats.
  • Invest in cybersecurity insurance, with a full understanding of what’s covered in the event of an attack.
  • Make sure vendor contracts include language requiring vendors to notify you within a short period of time of any attack on their systems. Know how to shut down connectivity quickly in case of attack.
  • Enhance your tech stack. An incident response manager tool will allow you to see how/where you’ve been compromised, act fast, and minimize the impact of a ransomware attack; a file integrity management solution can tell you whether any changes made were authorized by your existing change management system.
  • Make sure you have access to enough Bitcoin in case paying ransom is your only option; you might want to establish a Bitcoin account expressly for this purpose.
 
EMERGENCY RESPONSE
  • Check with law enforcement to determine your odds of recovering data. Depending on the type of ransomware deployed, you might be able to get a decryption key from the FBI’s database.
  • Perform a system analysis to determine what communications went outbound and what specific actions were taken on the system. These details will help you determine what gaps in your security stack need fixing.
 

Want to Learn More About Ransomware Preparedness?

If this post left you with more questions than you had before, you’ll want to tune into our recent webinar, “Be Smart, Take Charge: What You Need to Know About Cybersecurity and Ransomware Prevention, Detection, and Response.” You’ll learn more details about the ransomware threat and come away with more resources and specific tips you can use to better secure your systems and develop a thorough, effective response plan.
 
Don’t wait till ransomware strikes to understand what you’re up against and fortify your business. Access the free recording here, and start taking steps to minimize the threat.
 
 
 
 
 

Disclaimer: Ontario Systems is a technology company and provides this blog article solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Ontario Systems’ advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Ontario Systems’ efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.

© 2019 Ontario Systems, LLC. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is subject to change. Reproduction of this publication is not permitted without the express permission of Ontario Systems, LLC.

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5 must-have reporting tool requirements to improve service and results

More government compliance and technology leaders are underscoring the importance of using data to achieve operational excellence. Relevant, reliable, ongoing reporting is vital to long-term operational success because it keeps staff on track while revealing issues requiring attention and individual employees in need of help.

The value of reporting to government teams, constituents and taxpayers is clear. But choosing a reporting solution from among the many available today can be challenging. How can agencies know which solution is the best fit for their particular needs?

In this article with GCN, Jeremy Rust, government services consultant at Ontario Systems, outlines five must-have reporting tool requirements.

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For Leading Collection Agency, Ontario Reports™ Offers Simpler, More Sophisticated Reporting

Asset Recovery Group (ARG), a premier collection agency with 5.8 million account records and a growing client base, was struggling to fulfill extensive reporting requirements and glean timely business intelligence from its FACS® database. ARG’s overburdened team needed a better way to build and share reports, but most available solutions were too complex and costly.

Recently, ARG discovered Ontario Reports™, an intuitive reporting tool that integrates seamlessly with its FACS system (and all Ontario Systems’ core receivables platforms). An easy five-minute installation led to huge gains in efficiency, reporting capabilities, and report quality.

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Data Privacy Laws: Is Your Business Ready for What’s Coming?

Data Privacy Laws: Is Your Business Ready for What’s Coming?

On July 11 in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted #DataDoneRight, a one-day summit highlighting the policy issues surrounding businesses’ use of consumer data. It was an engaging, eye-opening event that drew together a variety of stakeholders and speakers.

The day’s presentations offered many important takeaways, but the bottom line was clear. If your business or customers rely on consumer data to provide good service, make strategic decisions, and ultimately make a profit, you should be focused on preparing for data privacy legislation that’s heading your way.

As a member of the Chamber’s Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC) and on behalf of Ontario Systems, I’ve had the distinct privilege of helping develop the Chamber’s proposed federal legislation addressing the need for a national data privacy framework. We at Ontario Systems understand that the businesses in the industries we serve are passionate about protecting consumer data, while at the same time are dedicated to providing data-driven innovation. Working toward establishing appropriate rules, as well as sufficient time to implement those rules is of utmost importance, thus we jumped at the chance to represent our industries to ensure their voice is heard in the hopes of preventing a far more painful scenario: a tsunami of conflicting state laws that could overwhelm businesses and upend our digital economy.

 

Why Is a National Regulatory Framework in Businesses’ Best Interest?

In 2018, California was the first state to pass sweeping data privacy laws (the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA). As of February 2019, 11 more states had introduced their own data privacy legislation. In the absence of comprehensive federal law (and with no promising signs that Congress will act soon), more and more state legislatures will be forced to address this issue.

A patchwork of 50 state laws will not only create mass confusion among consumers and businesses, but also hit small and midsize businesses particularly hard. Staying compliant and fighting red tape across state lines will be complex, costly endeavors requiring significant resources. This new legal minefield could simultaneously create a chilling effect and open the door to countless lawsuits, thus hampering or endangering small to medium-sized enterprises’ (SME) ability to conduct business.

The CCPA and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are contrasting studies in data privacy legislation. In terms of how they were developed and how they’re impacting businesses, both of these models offer lessons we hope lawmakers will take to heart.

 

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): A Blueprint for State Action?

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which will go into effect next year, was conceived as a David vs. Goliath effort to protect consumers from Big Tech data abuses. The CCPA was developed over a short period of time and without enough business input. According to #DataDoneRight presenter and Californians for Consumer Privacy Board Chair Alastair Mactaggart, the law is largely a rebuke of two leading tech giants—whose combined 2018 revenues of $192 billion were earned, he says, “on the backs of others’ data and information.”

But most businesses are not tech giants, and many use customer data in helpful, important ways.

For example, #DataDoneRight attendees learned that Thompson Reuters, through responsible data sharing, has helped solve crimes such as shootings, sex trafficking, and Medicare Fraud. There are many more businesses, both B2C and B2B, who use customer data every day to make the customer experience more personalized, convenient, and valuable.

By introducing private rights of action, the CCPA has made it possible for consumers with privacy claims to sue any of these companies at will. Individual lawsuits favor lawyers over consumers, as they tie up businesses without effecting meaningful change.

Developed without input from California’s diverse business community, the CCPA may have severe unintended consequences for SMEs. In addition, companies will have less than six months to update their compliance programs for the new sweeping comprehensive privacy regime. Whether forthcoming amendments will help achieve the right balance between consumer and business interests remains to be seen.

 

EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): A Blueprint for Federal Action?

The EU’s GDPR, adopted in April 2016, reflects the distinct philosophies and needs of European businesses and consumers. It was developed over a longer period of time based on in-depth research and wide-ranging input. The GDPR addresses both data privacy and data security, requiring customer consent regarding use of data and security measures that protect data. Unlike the CCPA, the GDPR granted businesses a period of two years to prepare compliance.

The GDPR is a comprehensive legislative framework, albeit substantially different from what U.S. legislators might come up with to drive innovation and economic growth here at home. The process that led to the GDPR was methodical, inclusive, and patient, and our legislators would do well to emulate it.

Yet even without the added complexity of patchwork laws, smaller companies with business interests in the EU bear an inordinate burden.

Larger U.S.-based firms have spent nearly $150 billion to ensure compliance with the GDPR, and Microsoft alone has assigned 1,600 engineers to the task. Unable or unwilling to bear the costs of ensuring compliance, many businesses have simply pulled out of the European market.

 

State and Federal Lawmakers Should Proceed with Caution

States’ rush to enact data privacy legislation is driven in part by a common perception among consumers that data privacy and data security are largely the same. But privacy (preventing unauthorized or undisclosed data sharing by a business) and security (preventing data theft by outsiders) are largely separate issues.

According to a recently released data privacy report from the C_TEC group, despite a dramatic increase in data breach incidents and volumes since 2005, fraud losses have dropped from $35 billion to under $15 billion during the same period. This suggests consumers are far more affected by cybersecurity and fraud prevention measures than they are by having their data exposed.

Don’t get me wrong: consumers have every reason and every right to be concerned about data privacy. But too hasty or heavy-handed an approach on the part of legislators in an attempt to ease constituents’ concerns may bring significant harm to businesses, consumers, and the economy.

If Congress is to act on this issue, any legislative proposals must reflect a thorough understanding and careful consideration of all stakeholders’ interests.

 

A Call to Action for Business Leaders: Get Ready, Get Involved

Data privacy legislation is inevitable. It’s also a mission-critical issue for businesses of all sizes. Small and midsize businesses in particular have a lot of decisions to make and work to do to ensure compliance using the resources they have (or with investments they’ll need to make).

I encourage you to educate yourself on the issues involved in the data privacy debate. Follow legislative developments. Go a step further, and become an influencer. Let your congressional representatives know where you stand. Remind them the General Accounting Office endorses a national data privacy law; even the FTC commissioner has publicly expressed support. This is a bipartisan issue, and federal legislation is a solution both parties can get behind.

We joined to U.S. Chamber to advocate for our clients, vendor partners, and similar businesses whose concerns need to be heard on Capitol Hill. By speaking out on behalf of a national data privacy law that benefits and protects both businesses and consumers, you can make a lasting impact. To learn more about what C_TEC is doing on data privacy and technology issues, visit www.americaninnovators.com.

 

Disclaimer: Ontario Systems is a technology company and provides this blog article solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Ontario Systems’ advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Ontario Systems’ efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.

© 2019 Ontario Systems, LLC. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is subject to change. Reproduction of this publication is not permitted without the express permission of Ontario Systems, LLC.

ARM Industry Leaders, Why Aren’t You Texting?

ARM Industry Leaders, Why Aren’t You Texting?

This is the first post in a new blog series highlighting the importance of text messaging for debt collections and what ARM businesses need to stay compliant.   Text messaging for debt collections might seem like a bridge too far. But it’s entirely within reach today....

News You Can Use: The Ontario Systems Blog, Version 2.0

News You Can Use: The Ontario Systems Blog, Version 2.0

Whether you’re a longtime subscriber or an occasional reader, you probably know what to expect from the Ontario Systems blog. Over the past five years, we’ve done our best to tackle complex industry issues, challenge norms, and offer expert advice for improving collections operations.

Our contributing authors have many years’ experience in collections, service, technology, and law. Our team is passionate about helping you make sense of the ever-changing world in which you operate so you can strengthen and grow your enterprise. As tech innovators who are devoted to solving high-level, mission-critical challenges, we want to empower you to be more compliant, efficient, and successful on a daily basis.

Our goal for the blog hasn’t changed. But our vision for it has. Going forward, we want the OS blog to be even more practical, specific, and useful to you. That’s why we’re introducing the next iteration of the Ontario Systems blog (we’ll call it version 2.0.)

 

A Hearty Mix of High-Level Views, Plus Tactics & Tools

Version 2.0 of the OS blog will look a lot like its predecessor. We’ll continue publishing the same types of content we always have. We’ll do our usual dives into the most pressing issues and ask thought-provoking questions. We’ll analyze events and trends and what they mean for you.

And, as always, we’ll share our opinions freely and listen closely to readers who join in the conversation.

From time to time, however, we’ll give the floor to our product leaders, innovators, and researchers—the people who are working in the trenches on existing and future products to solve the issues you face every day. We want to provide you with as much useful information as possible, and we hope you’ll find value in learning about our distinct approach to solving industry challenges, why it matters, and the solutions we’re working on that offer clear competitive and operational advantages.

When a pioneering concept is about to hit the market, or we’re working on product changes that will enhance users’ capabilities and ROI, we think it’s worth sharing for the benefit of our readers.

 

What to Look for in the Weeks Ahead

Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce a couple new blog series as well as some individual posts that explore largely untapped cost-saving, revenue-driving opportunities for ARM companies, healthcare providers, and others. We’ll highlight common industry practices that could be holding you back. We’ll also explain how we approach these problems, along with specific ways you can accelerate operational and market gains with our products.

The ARM “Ecosystem”
For ARM businesses struggling with regulatory issues and rising costs, some of the biggest barriers to success are the least obvious. Is innovation to blame? Depending on how it’s implemented, technologies can actually hamper business growth. We’ll explain why, and why we believe an ARM “ecosystem” is indispensable.

Bringing Accountability to Healthcare RCM
Large healthcare networks and providers are feeling the pinch from all sides, from shrinking reimbursements to rising labor costs. A strong RCM cycle is essential for viability and growth. We’ll reveal the simple fix that eliminates the “EHR gap” and empowers collection teams to achieve superior performance and results.

Cloud-Based Contact Management
We have exciting announcements coming about the Ontario Omni™ cloud-based contact management solution. Texting, email, consumer portal—all of these and more are on the horizon.

 

We Want to Hear From You, the Experts We Serve

What are your biggest priorities and most urgent problems? What types of topics would you like us to address? We want to make the OS blog a more valuable resource for our readers. Please help us by sharing your concerns and ideas.

 

Not subscribed to the OS blog?

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Disclaimer: Ontario Systems is a technology company and provides this blog article solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Ontario Systems’ advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Ontario Systems’ efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.

© 2019 Ontario Systems, LLC. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is subject to change. Reproduction of this publication is not permitted without the express permission of Ontario Systems, LLC.

ARM Industry Leaders, Why Aren’t You Texting?

ARM Industry Leaders, Why Aren’t You Texting?

This is the first post in a new blog series highlighting the importance of text messaging for debt collections and what ARM businesses need to stay compliant.   Text messaging for debt collections might seem like a bridge too far. But it’s entirely within reach today....

Top 10 Elevator Conversations RE: CFPB’s Proposed New Rules for Debt Collection – Part 2

Top 10 Elevator Conversations RE: CFPB’s Proposed New Rules for Debt Collection – Part 2

As I write this, it has been three weeks to the day (5-28-19) since the CFPB released its proposed new rules for debt collection. After the initial frenzy of conversation, consumer groups and the debt collection industry have quietly retreated to their respective corners. As a watch dog over legislation, regulation and case law impacting the industry, I find their silence deafening. Both camps are assessing precisely how their world will change if the new rules, as proposed, become final without any significant change. In the meantime, let’s look at five more elevator conversations (if you missed the first five, check them out here) you can use to help your team digest 537 pages of information.

 

Elevator Conversation #6: “The Limited Content Message is not a communication, but it may be a call if you leave a voicemail.”

If you have any tenure in the collection industry, you know where you were on March 25, 2006, when the Southern District of New York decided FOTI v. NCO FINANCIAL SYS | 424 F.Supp.2d 643 (2006). In this case, the court made clear, a voice mail message left on a consumer’s answering machine is a communication in connection with the collection of a debt and must therefore include:

  • the meaningful identity of the debt collector 15 USC 1692 d (6); and
  • the disclosure the communication was from a debt collector See 15 USC 1692 e (11).

It is also the case which held the inclusion of such information in a voice mail message can establish a claim against a debt collector for the unauthorized disclosure of a debt to a third party.

Huh? Yes, that is the reaction every debt collector has had in response to this case and all the other hundreds like it for the past 13 years. To alleviate this catch 22, the CFPB has attempted to placate the industry and protect consumers from the unauthorized disclosure of a debt to a third party by handing us a “model message.”

The model message purports to be a safe harbor from liability when leaving a message with a consumer. It should include the following:

  • the consumer’s name;
  • a request the consumer reply to the message;
  • the name of names of one or more natural persons [NOT A BOT OR ARTIFICIAL VOICE OR IVR] the consumer can contact to reply to the debt collector;
  • a telephone number the consumer can use to reply; and
  • if applicable, the opt out notice for electronic communications provided in 1006.6(e).

Example: This is a message for Bob Andersen from Mary Smith. Please reply by contacting me at XXX-XXX-XXXX.

If you like, the CFPB will allow you to include a salutation, the date and time of the message; a generic statement that the message relates to an account; and the suggested dates and times for the consumer to reply to the message.

There are no restrictions on whether this may be a voice mail message or text message. But we do know it INCUDES a ringless voice mail message and that an email can never be used to leave a limited content message.
See 1006.2 (j) 1-2

 

Elevator Conversation #7: “I have a riddle for you today. What can never be an email, but will always be a call, even if the phone does not ring, unless it is sent by text?”

You got it! A limited content message is the answer. Under the proposed rules, if you use the model message as prescribed, the model message shall not be deemed a communication under the FDCPA and will therefore, NOT trigger the disclosure requirements of the FDCPA noted above. However, if you leave the model message on a person’s cell phone, VoIP or landline answering machine, the model message is a call for purposes of the call cap limit.

Surprisingly, if you send the model message as a text message, it is NOT a call for purposes of the call cap limit even though the TCPA tells us it is a call. Don’t try to make sense of these last two statements. For the time being, just memorize them. Perhaps more clarity will be provided in the final rules.
1006.14 (b)(2)

Oh, and before I forget, if you leave the model message, communicate, or attempt to communicate with a consumer electronically using a specific email address or telephone number for text messages or any other electronic medium, you must explain how the consumer may opt out of further electronic communications or attempt to communicate to that address or telephone number.
See 1006. (e)

 

Elevator Conversation #8: “The call cap rule is easy. Seven in seven or one in seven.”

The CFPB’s proposed rules restrict a debt collector from placing repeated or continuous telephone calls in connection with the collection of a debt with the intent to annoy. Call caps are limited per person per debt to:

  • No more than seven attempts to reach a particular person about a particular debt within seven consecutive days [includes busy signal, reaching a voice mail box and causing the phone to ring];or
  • No more than one telephone conversation with a person within a consecutive, seven-day period. The day of the conversation is day one of seven. The term conversation is not defined. My guess is if you can identify yourself in the slightest manner, even by caller ID, and the person hangs up… it’s a conversation. Hopefully the final rules will clarify the definition of a conversation.

There are a few exceptions to these rules. Telephone calls placed to a person do not count toward the frequency limits if:

  • they are made to respond to a request for information from such person;
  • they are made with such person’s prior consent given directly to the debt collector; or
  • the placed calls never connect or the calls are placed to the consumer’s attorney, a consumer reporting agency, the creditor, the creditor’s attorney or the debt collector’s attorney.

See 1006.14 (b)(14)(a) -(b) and 1006.6(d)

 

Elevator Conversation #9: “We send a Spanish language version of the validation notice because we can.”

Many of the consumers from whom we collect tell us they prefer to communicate with us in a language other than English. Under the new proposed rules, we know we can send the validation notice in any language other than English so long as the non-English version is completely and accurately translated, and we include it with an English language validation in the same communication. Fortunately, the CFPB will provide us with the accurate and complete Spanish language version of the validation notice. If the CFPB adds sample validation notices to its website for other languages, we may consider sending additional versions to our consumer populations.
See 1006.34 (e)

Remember, even if you send the consumer a Spanish/English validation notice accurately and completely translated, you must still comply with the new, proposed 1006.34 (d) disclosure. This section of the proposed rules requires us to inform the consumer they may request a Spanish-language translation of the validation notice. Specifically, the English version of the validation notice must include a statement, “Pongase en contacto con nosotros para solicitor una copia de este formulario en epanol,”(which means “Contact us to request a copy of the form in Spanish.”

 

Elevator Conversation #10: “Have you figured out how to send a validation notice and other required disclosures electronically? We have.”

It is not as difficult as it may seem to send your FDCPA disclosures electronically. To help you understand the requirements, you must understand one simple concept. You can only substitute delivery by U.S. First Class mail if the manner you use is reasonably expected to provide actual notice in a form the consumer may keep and access later.

In other words, you can’t email someone a validation notice to some goofy email address they never use, or you cannot text a URL link to a consumer if they have no idea what to do with a URL link, or worse yet, if the URL link doesn’t work or allow them to save and later access the document. Once you get on board with the benefits you will enjoy if the consumer receives the disclosure or validation notice you send electronically, then you will be able to more readily embrace the new requirements.

Also, the rules for electronic delivery do not apply to one’s verbal delivery of a required disclosure.
See 1006.42(a)

With the backdrop of actual notice/keep and access requirements, a debt collector may provide a validation notice within five days of the initial communication with the consumer or the disclosures regarding the name of the original creditor or the right to dispute and request verification of the debt within 30 days of receipt of the validation notice in one of three ways:

  • After Debt Collector Obtains E-Sign Act Consent – In accordance with section 101 (C ) of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN Act) (15 USC 7001 (C )) after the consumer provides affirmative consent directly to the debt collector.
  • After the Creditor or Prior Debt Collector Obtains E-Sign Act Consent – If the creditor or prior debt collector obtained ESIGN Act consent to use an email address or telephone number to text the consumer about the debt you are seeking to collect [doesn’t matter if they actually used the address or phone number to provide electronic disclosures].

If you use this option to secure consent to deliver required disclosures electronically, you must either place the disclosures in the body of an email sent to the address for ESIGN Act consent was obtained or include a clear and conspicuous hyperlink to the disclosure(s) located on a secure website. Remember, if you use a hyperlink, the link must be accessible for some reasonable period of time [I personally think a reasonable period of time should be interpreted to mean the latter of the date the debt is paid in full, settled in full, returned to the creditor or exhausted by operation of law … but that’s just my opinion.] The consumer must also be able to save or print from the web page. If you use a hyperlink process to display the disclosures, you must also provide the consumer with an opportunity to opt out of the hyperlink delivery and make sure the consumer has not opted out.

  • You include the Validation Notice in Body of Initial Communication – You may include the contents of the Validation Notice in the actual body of an email if you:
    • treat the delivery of the email as a writing [not a verbal validation notice];
    • obtain ESIGN consent to deliver the required disclosure from the consumer and use one of two different email addresses:
      • the email address the creditor or the prior debt collector could have used for delivery of electronic disclosures under ESIGN Act regarding that debt; or
      • an email address you obtained using the reasonable procedures process detailed in 1006.6(d)(3).

 

These elevator conversations do not cover all the provisions of the new proposed rules, nor are they intended as such. In upcoming blog articles, watch for my work flow recommendations regarding text and email communications for both ordinary collection activities and extraordinary collection activities.

 

Disclaimer: Ontario Systems is a technology company and provides this blog article solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Ontario Systems’ advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Ontario Systems’ efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.

© 2019 Ontario Systems, LLC. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is subject to change. Reproduction of this publication is not permitted without the express permission of Ontario Systems, LLC.

ARM Industry Leaders, Why Aren’t You Texting?

ARM Industry Leaders, Why Aren’t You Texting?

This is the first post in a new blog series highlighting the importance of text messaging for debt collections and what ARM businesses need to stay compliant.   Text messaging for debt collections might seem like a bridge too far. But it’s entirely within reach today....

Top 10 Elevator Conversations RE: CFPB’s Proposed New Rules for Debt Collection – Part 1

Top 10 Elevator Conversations RE: CFPB’s Proposed New Rules for Debt Collection – Part 1

It is hard for anyone to get their head around the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed new rules for debt collection. The document is an exhausting 537 pages long, filled with cross references, mired in statutory definitions, and extremely challenging to navigate. Honestly, after I finished my first reading of the new rules, I was convinced I would never master their complexity. I am happy to say, after two weeks of study, I was able to distill the proposed rules into 10 elevator conversations. These five conversations are the first of my two-part blog series.

 

Elevator Conversation #1: “The Bureau’s proposed rules have been a long time coming.”

It’s a very long process. It all started in 2010, when Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This law made the Bureau the first agency with the power to issue substantive rules under the 1977 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Bureau announced its notice of proposed rulemaking for the FDCPA on November 6, 2013. On Tuesday May 7, 2019, almost six years later, the Bureau released the proposed rules for the FDCPA.

The next step in the rulemaking process requires the Bureau to publish these proposed rules in an official Federal government publication called the Federal Register. After they are published in the Federal Register, industry and consumers alike will have a 90-day period to file comments. At that point the Bureau will take the comments under advisement toward eventually promulgating the final rules. As of the date of this writing, we anticipate the proposed rules will be published this week.

 

Elevator Conversation #2: “I wonder if debt collectors can be sued for noncompliance with the new rules.”

My lawyer told me once the new rules take effect – most likely a year after the final rules are published in the Federal register – they will have the force and effect of law. Rules are the same thing as regulations. When a governmental body such as the Bureau goes through this elongated rulemaking process, its final rules will apply to all third-party debt collectors. This means consumer attorneys and their clients will be able to sue third-party debt collectors for failing to follow the new rules. Similarly, the Bureau and state attorneys general will be able to issue civil investigative demands and launch enforcement actions against third-party debt collectors for noncompliance.

 

Elevator Conversation #3: “I can live with the call caps because they don’t apply to text messaging.”

Under the new rules, third-party debt collectors will be able to place up to seven calls in seven days to a particular person regarding a particular debt. However, any number of calls placed in excess of that limitation will be considered harassing, oppressive or abusive behavior under the FDCPA and an abusive practice under section 1031 of the Dodd-Frank Act. Such limits do not impact text message communications even though text messages are defined as calls under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Nor may debt collectors place a call to a person within a period of seven consecutive days after having a telephone conversation with the person in connection with the collection of such debt. The date of the telephone conversation is the first day of the seven-consecutive-day period. Third-party debt collectors can exceed these limits if responding to a request for information from the person, or if such person’s prior consent is given directly to the debt collector.
See 1006.14(b)(2) – Frequency Limits at page 459.

 

Elevator Conversation #4: “It is nice to see some clarity around email and text message communications.”

I know we did not need the Bureau to tell us we could communicate electronically with consumers, but it is nice to see the clarification around compliance with the Electronic Signatures in Global Commerce Act (ESIGN). Personally, I am not wasting any more time fighting ESIGN. At our agency, we already provide the disclosures to our consumers, ask for their consent to deliver legally-required written notices and disclosures to them as required by ESIGN [see sidebar], ask them to show us their nonwork email address or nonwork mobile number is an active address or number they can access, and then just move on.

The new rules just give us more options and make this ESIGN process easier. Under the new rules, as proposed, we will have a bona fide error defense against unauthorized third-party disclosure of the debt if we have procedures that confirm we communicate with the consumer using:

  • An email address or mobile number the consumer recently used to contact us other than to opt out;
  • A nonwork email address or nonwork mobile phone number either our agency or the creditor for the particular debt told them we would use to communicate with them about the debt. Note: such notice must be provided clearly and conspicuously either verbally or in writing and must be provided at least 30 or fewer days before using. The opt out specified in the notice has not expired [other restrictions apply]; or
  • A nonwork email address or nonwork mobile phone number either the creditor or a prior debt collector obtained from the consumer to communicate about the debt and used before the debt was placed with our agency.
    See 1006.6(d)(3) at pages 455-456 – Reasonable procedures for email and text message communications.

 

Elevator Conversation #5: “We have already cut our postage and letter expense in half by adopting a voluntary email or text message program for our consumers.”

No need to wait for these new rules to take effect. We have two categories of letter communications. The first is called Ordinary Collection Actions and the second is Legally Required Collection Actions. The former is composed of requests for payment, payment reminders, receipts, settlement documents, and standard collection notices requesting payment. The latter is composed of the G notice or validation notice which we must provide in the first communication with the consumer or within five days of our first communication with the consumer, the intent to deposit notice, the name of the original creditor notice and the verification information we send if the consumer disputes the debt within 30 days of receiving the notice.

We simply follow the reasonable procedures steps for electronic communications when sending information relating to Ordinary Collection Actions [see above] and follow ESIGN when we engage in Legally Required Collection Actions by sending information which the law requires us to provide in writing.

Next week … more about ESIGN and how you can use it for the validation notice, collecting decedent debt, new notice requirements for credit reporting, document retention requirements, the limited content message, the model form and more. Send your questions about the new proposed rules to me at rozanne.andersen@ontariosystems.com, Angela Erwin at angela.erwin@ontariosystems.com, or Sara Woggerman at sara.woggerman@ontariosytems.com.

 

Disclaimer: Ontario Systems is a technology company and provides this blog article solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Ontario Systems’ advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Ontario Systems’ efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.

© 2019 Ontario Systems, LLC. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is subject to change. Reproduction of this publication is not permitted without the express permission of Ontario Systems, LLC.

 

ESIGN in Action

 

The ESIGN SEC. 101. (c) CONSUMER DISCLOSURES provision explains the information you must provide the consumer to secure ESIGN consent. I’ve included the requirements for your reference at the end of this blog. To give you an idea of a script you and your attorney can edit to solicit the consumer’s ESIGN consent, I provide the following:

Collector: Hi Amy, I’m glad we could set up the preauthorized electronic funds transfer payments. But before we can send you your [FDCPA required] post-dated payment intent to deposit reminders pursuant to 15 USC 1692f (2) by email/text, I have to make sure you will be able to receive the information we send and understand your right. Do you mind listening for a few seconds?

Amy: No, I don’t mind listening.

Collector: Great. Sometimes the kinds of documents that we must send you require us to obtain your consent to send them electronically.
Granting consent to receive this information electronically applies to the following debt or debts (list debt(s)).

You can withdraw this consent at any time by calling us at xxx-xxx-xxxx and we will mail you the required information in the future. (Include a statement here that describes if the agency will charge or not charge a fee for obtaining this information in a paper form.)

To ensure we always have your proper email address, you can update your contact information by calling us*, visiting our website* or sending us an email*. (An agency could do this via text if the agency has this capability; texting laws will apply.)

The hardware and software requirements to access and obtain records are (… – example: you are required to have Adobe Acrobat).
To confirm that you can receive the information electronically I am going to send you an email.

Please reply to me so I know this is a good address for you.
(Note: if you disclose the information via web, the consumer must confirm their ability to use the web; if you disclose the information via email, they must confirm their ability to use that email address; if you disclose the information using text, they must confirm their ability to use that mobile number for texts.)

Amy: OK, I received your email and sent a reply to you.

Collector: Great. Got it. We are good to go. Remember, if you have any questions for me at any time about anything we have discussed, you may call our office Monday through Saturday between the hours of 8 a.m. Central and 6 p.m. Central.

 

California Court System Migrates Four Legacy Systems, Converts 1 Million Docs — in Just 20 Months

For the Superior Court of San Joaquin County, managing roughly 94,000 cases per year was a big challenge. The court relied on antiquated, disparate systems and manual processes to do the job. Due to a state mandate, the court needed to migrate its four legacy systems and 1 million docs to a new, state-of-the-art platform in a hurry.

San Joaquin chose Justice Systems (JSI) and FullCourt Enterprise™ to spearhead the operation. Once the project was complete, the court saw substantial gains in functionality, productivity, and taxpayer savings.

Read More

It’s Time to Improve Your Court Compliance Process – And it’s Easier Than You Think

It’s Time to Improve Your Court Compliance Process – And it’s Easier Than You Think

Courts across the U.S. are in a bind when it comes to the collection practices they’ve relied on for decades. As cost concerns, administrative burdens, and mounting public pressure continue to bear down, court clerks and administrators are coming to terms with a longstanding problem: compliance is a net loss for the court.

The question isn’t whether change is needed. The question is, how can courts significantly improve collections, and do it in a sustainable way?

The ideal compliance process might appear, to many courts, to be pie in the sky. But getting there doesn’t require an army of new court employees. It doesn’t require a lot of time or resources. And it needn’t disrupt current systems or create training headaches.

It simply requires automation beyond what many case management platforms offer—specifically, a tech solution that’s dedicated to managing data in real time, making collection tasks easier, and streamlining the compliance process for courts and constituents alike.

The Game Changer: A Cost-Neutral Solution that Doesn’t Disrupt

For courts that want to break free from traditional compliance hassles and improve their results, there’s a surprisingly simple fix: a local- or cloud-based software platform that reflects current outside collection agency (OCA) and account receivables management (ARM) requirements, standards, and practices. The platform boosts efficiency and effectiveness simultaneously by eliminating repetitive tasks and bringing high-value accounts into focus.

Because it integrates and interfaces with existing systems (case management, external receivables, etc.), the platform requires minimal training and human intervention. It’s also budget neutral, funded by credit card processing fees many consumers are accustomed to paying. In fact, by improving collections in house before the point in the process where accounts are turned over to OCAs, the platform actually lowers operating costs long term.

Tech-Enabled Capabilities that Boost Revenue with Ease

Centralization of data, expanded functionality, and intuitive, easy-to-use tools offer court personnel unprecedented visibility and control. The effect is transformational, both behind the curtain and at every touchpoint along the constituent’s journey.

With better insights and a reduced workload, employees can focus their efforts on accounts with the highest potential value. The natural result is a better outcome for the court (lower costs, more revenue captured, swifter adjudication) and a better-served constituency.

Simplified Data Management
Customizable user dashboards and real-time updates allow court employees to monitor account statuses and payments so that accounts don’t fall through the cracks. Automatic skip tracing ensures court employees have defendants’ most recent contact information, identifying information, and legal status.

Streamlined Workflows
Court employees can create custom work lists, produced automatically or on demand, to prioritize accounts and intervene when needed. Automation of account tracking, follow-up, payment processing and adjustments, reporting, and OCA referrals helps ensure a smooth, consistent collections process that preserves court resources.

Appropriate, Consistent, Timely Service
Event-triggered omnichannel communication is one of the most important advantages of a tech-powered compliance process. Court personnel can engage defendants right away, when payment is most likely. They can also set up event triggers for notices and reminders depending on constituents’ preferences, and create, store, and print templates for customized written correspondence.

Automation also makes it easier for defendants to comply. They can use online self-service portals and tools to set up payment plans and make payments, greatly reducing the need for direct contact with the court. Employees, freed by automation, are better positioned to help when support is needed.

Want to See the Ideal Compliance Process in Action?

Learn more about what automated collections can do to enhance your compliance process, or get a firsthand look by requesting a free RevQ® demo. You’ll learn what many courts and government institutions have already discovered: the immense value of doing more with less.

Disclaimer: Ontario Systems is a technology company and provides this blog article solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Ontario Systems’ advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Ontario Systems’ efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.

© 2020 Ontario Systems, LLC. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is subject to change. Reproduction of this publication is not permitted without the express permission of Ontario Systems, LLC.

Government Operations and Constituent Service: A Look Ahead to 2020

Government Operations and Constituent Service: A Look Ahead to 2020

If necessity is the mother of invention, the government sector’s growing push for change in the form of greater accountability, increased efficiency, and improved public service is bound to gain steam in 2020. In fact, 2020 could be both a breaking point and a banner...

“Too Good to be True” – Unfortunately, it’s the Case with the FCC’s New Reassigned Number Database

“Too Good to be True” – Unfortunately, it’s the Case with the FCC’s New Reassigned Number Database

If you are like me, you cheered when you read the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is coming out with a reassigned mobile phone number database. Visions of daily scrubs against a free public database of mobile phone numbers supported by carriers across the land, danced in my head. But alas, such is not the case. Although the new database will have tremendous value, it is value that will come with a price.

Why We Should Care

If there is one thing we know for sure about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), particularly in the wake of ACA vs. FCC, it is the sad truth the “one free call” rule no longer exists. This means without exception, and until further clarification is provided, in order to comply with the consent requirements of the TCPA when autodialing, text messaging, leaving a prerecorded message or using an artificial voice to contact a consumer via their mobile phone, callers using mobile numbers must in fact contact only those consumers from whom they have express consent. There is no room for error.

The FCC’s Solution

According to the FCC, each year, over 35 million numbers in the U.S. are disconnected and become available for reassignment to new subscribers. Few disagree the failure to promptly identify these reassignments poses significant issues for the calling parties who will inevitably call a person to whom the number has been reassigned, but who did not grant consent. Recognizing callers must have confidence the number they are using is associated with the consumer who actually granted the consent, the FCC embarked on a two-year study of the reassigned number dilemma.

In December of 2018, the FCC approved the roll out of a mobile phone database of deactivated phone numbers. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “deactivated;” the term means turned off or disabled. In this context, a carrier turns off or deactivates a mobile phone number when, for example, a person relinquishes their phone number to their carrier to take advantage of a discount. When this happens, the carrier will categorize your old number as deactivated and reassign the number to a new consumer.

Mandatory Participation by Voice Service Providers

While several private companies in the marketplace can confirm numbers as being currently assigned to a particular person, the FCC observed these commercial databases do not contain information on every mobile phone number. This is because currently voice service providers who assign numbers to their subscribers are not required to report this information to a centralized database. In contrast, the FCC’s new, mandatory, data reporting obligation will be imposed on all carriers and voice providers, including wireless, wireline, and interconnected VoIP providers who obtain numbering resources from the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA).

How it Works

Voice service providers will need to report deactivated mobile phone numbers to the database administrator each month. They will also have to establish a minimum “aging” period of 45 days after permanent disconnection. After waiting 45 days, the number is eligible for reassignment. The FCC stated that a minimum aging period longer than a month would permit permanent disconnections to be reflected in the new database as providers report this information to the database administrator monthly.

Access to the database will be available to callers large and small. Low-volume access will be available through a website interface. High-volume access will be made available for batch processing through standardized interfaces. The Order also recognized that callers may want to use third-party contractors as their agents, and the FCC will allow third-party contractors access to the database on request.

Not a Panacea

Callers will pay a fee for access to the database. Yet it is too soon to predict the cost of access via the web interface or batch processing. Issues regarding the security of the database and the management of the high volume of transactions could cripple the database even before it even launches. While the FCC estimates the build out of the database will take a year, many expect it could take as long as two. In the meantime, callers are well advised to use commercial scrub services to increase their likelihood of contacting consumers for which they have obtained consent using their mobile phone numbers.

 

Disclaimer: Ontario Systems is a technology company and provides this blog article solely for general informational and marketing purposes. You should not rely on the content of this material for any other purpose or as specific guidance for your company. Ontario Systems’ advice, services, tools and products described herein do not guarantee compliance with any law or industry standard. You are ultimately responsible for your own company’s actions and compliance efforts. Because everyone’s situation is different, you must consult your own attorneys, accountants, and/or other advisors to obtain specific advice on your company’s compliance, legal, tax, regulatory and/or other business needs. Despite Ontario Systems’ efforts to provide current and up-to-date information, you need to recognize that the information contained herein may become outdated quickly and may contain errors and/or other inaccuracies.

© 2019 Ontario Systems, LLC. All rights reserved. Information contained in this document is subject to change. Reproduction of this publication is not permitted without the express permission of Ontario Systems, LLC.

ARM Industry Leaders, Why Aren’t You Texting?

ARM Industry Leaders, Why Aren’t You Texting?

This is the first post in a new blog series highlighting the importance of text messaging for debt collections and what ARM businesses need to stay compliant.   Text messaging for debt collections might seem like a bridge too far. But it’s entirely within reach today....