U.S. Rep Gregory W. Meeks Announces Introduction
of the Debt Collection Practices Harmonization Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Gregory W. Meeks introduced the Debt Collection Harmonization Act, H.R. 4347, which seeks to protect consumers from unfair and abusive conduct by debt collectors. This bill will close gaps in the Fair Debt Collection Protection Act (FDCPA) by treating all debt collected by third parties similarly while also providing FDCPA teeth by adjusting penalties for inflation. Additionally, H.R. 4347 prevents private debt collection companies from collecting debts associated with natural disasters, and requires the Department of Treasury to manage debt collection associated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s errors in the administration of Individual Assistance claims:
"Nearly four decades ago, Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to protect consumers from unfair and abusive conduct by debt collectors. However, unlike collectors of consumer debts, those hired by government agencies are not covered by this act and often disregard basic consumer protection standards that were mandated under this law. Recent investigations by CNN revealed stories from people across the country abused by debt collectors operating under the assumed authority of state and local governments, and charging steep fees, making abusive threats of foreclosure, driver’s license suspension, wage garnishment, and even arrest.
"Today, I introduced the Debt Collection Harmonization Act to stop these abusive practices, and to make sure that debts resulting from natural disasters such as Super Storm Sandy would no longer be exempted from fair debt collection practices.
"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. Essentially, the bill will treat all third-party debt collectors similarly, regardless of the underlying source of debt.
"In addition, because survivors of a natural disasters like Super Storm Sandy face difficult and long-lasting hardships on the road to recovery, this bill would ensure that recipients of individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency enjoy greater protection from private debt collection practices. This legislation will prevent private debt collection companies from collecting debts associated with natural disasters, and will require the Department of Treasury to manage debt collection associated with FEMA’s errors in the administration of Individual Assistance claims. I look forward to House passage of this important legislation and commend Senators Cory Booker and Mike Lee for introducing a Senate companion bill entitled The Stop Debt Collection Abuse Act.”