New Apps Can Wreak Havoc on Collectors Trying to Comply With FDCPA: Webinar Panelists

Mar 14, 2019

There are apps out there now that imitate the voices of real people and individuals are using them during phone conversations with collection agents as a means of wasting an agent’s time and making it impossible to collect on a debt.

That was just one of a number of important topics discussed during a webinar recently that was sponsored by Peak Revenue Learning. The webinar, entitled “Where Collectors Make the Most FDCPA Mistakes” featured the following panel of leading compliance experts. The panelists talked about the areas where agents most often get tripped up when attempting to comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and how agencies can work with their employees to keep mistakes from happening again.

  • John Bedard, Bedard Law Group

  • Renee Bogar, Radius Global Solutions

  • Shelly Gensmer, ERC BPO

The apps mentioned during the webinar, Robokiller is one of them, are intended to be used against robocalls, where an automated voice attempts to sell a product or service to an individual. The apps attempt to turn the tables on those automated calls by deploying their own bot to engage the automated voice in a prolonged conversation, seeking “revenge” on robocallers, as Robokiller’s app proclaims.

But individuals are deploying the apps in collection calls as well, the panelists revealed. And that is causing problems for agents who might not realize they are speaking with an app and not a human.

“Honestly the best thing that you can do is play those call samples and give them examples of those apps so they can listen to it, they can hear the questions you can print out the questions because they’re essentially the same each and every time someone uses that app,” said Shelly Gensmer, the vice president of legal and compliance for ERC.

Training is an incredibly important component of helping collectors avoid making mistakes with the FDCPA, the panelists said during the webinar.

It can be easy, for example, for a collector to get distracted at the beginning of a call, either because the collector is familiar with the individual being called and has built a rapport with that person, or in a situation where an individual is being uncooperative right from the get-go, which can lead to a collector forgetting to make the necessary disclosures, said Renee Bogar, vice president of compliance and quality assurance with Radius Global Solutions.

“I always encourage collectors to stay the course, remember where they were in the conversation, make sure that they’re getting back to their disclosures that they need to provide, when they’ve established a relationship with a consumer don’t get to the point where you’re feeling too comfortable, too personal, they always need to maintain that higher level of professionalism,” Bogar said during the webinar. “They get sidetracked from providing the disclosures and the pattern that they’re accustomed to when the call follows the same direction as they were taught in training or staying call opening of their call flow.”

The panelists also warned collectors to be mindful of the traditional baiting traps that individuals like to try and set to catch a collection agent violating the FDCPA. Those include questions about when a debt is due, trying to get a collector to overshadow the validation notice, asking the same question over and over again in an attempt to get a different answer, and questions about whether a debt will be reported to the credit bureaus. In many cases, not trying to come up with an answer is the best answer.

“We tell clients the law does not require you to answer every question a consumer asks, and although it is courteous and consumer-friendly, what we try to get our clients to understand is if the bait gets shown get off the phone,” said John Bedard of the Bedard Law Group. “You have got to be courteous, you have to have a protocol for ending the call, but when the agent learns that that caller or that recipient has no intention on focusing on the account or a dispute or anything legitimate, then the best course of action is to politely and to gracefully get off the phone.”

Collectors are often trained to create a sense of urgency with respect to getting an individual to pay a debt as quickly as possible, but that can lead to issues if the urgency is bring created during the 30-day validation notice window. In those situations, collectors need to make sure they do not overshadow the window individuals have to dispute a debt.

“It’s phrasing your questions appropriately and phrasing the payment opportunities appropriately and again, as I stated before, avoiding putting a finite date on it or using definitive statements or words that can be construed as telling the consumer they have to pay something when they’re still within their 30 days of dispute opportunity,” Gensmer said.