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Debt collection can be a challenge. Overcoming debt collector stereotypes, and adhering to the many laws and statutes which govern collections practices can be a formidable task, and there are times when you may need information and assistance on things like current legislation, legal support, or industry information.
The American Collectors Association (ACA) contributes to the success of its members and the positive reputation of the credit and collection industry through education, advocacy, and services. Here are some of the most prominent ways ACA supports collectors.
Representation on Collection Laws and Statutes
The ACA provides information to its members on current legislative activities and spearheads the Accounts Receivables Management industry's interests. They focus on many laws and statutes which are largely consumer-friendly, and provide selective representation of constituents in the industry to ensure debt collectors are appropriately represented.
Although there are many laws and statutes which govern the credit and collections industry, there are two main laws that are of continual focus for the ACA:
- The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA)
This act creates guidelines under which debt collectors may conduct business, defines rights of consumers involved with debt collectors, and prescribes penalties and remedies for violations of the Act. The ACA works to provide you with best practices and guidance on how to operate under this act. For example, some of these best practices include debt collectors identifying themselves and notifying the consumer, giving the name and address of the original creditor, notifying the consumer of their right to dispute the debt, and providing verification of the debt.
- The Telephone Consumer Protection Act TCPA
TCPA restricts telephone solicitations (i.e., telemarketing) and the use of automated telephone equipment. The TCPA limits the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial or prerecorded voice messages, SMS text messages, and fax machines. This act prohibit solicitors from calling residences before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. local time, requires solicitors maintain a company-specific “do-not-call” list of consumers who asked not to be called, and requires solicitors honor the National Do Not Call Registry.
This act is currently the main focus of the ACA for a two reasons. First, this act was initially created for telemarketers, but debt collectors, although very different from telemarketers, were also classified under this act. Also, since it was passed in 1991, many provisions of this law no longer apply to today’s technology. As you know, most consumers primarily use cell phones, and many don’t even have landlines anymore. For these reasons, the ACA is currently lobbying legislators in Washington D.C. to re-assess the relevancy of the law in its current form, with the intention of adapting it to contemporary telecommunications practices.
National and State Conventions
One way to keep up to speed on what’s happening in the industry is to attend the ACA conventions.
There are two national conventions per year where vendors showcase their products and key topics, review current legislation, and discuss best practices. These national conventions are more federal focused and address topics on a national level. Several states also have local conventions that are smaller and address what is happening with state laws. Here, the topics, legislation, and best practices focus on the state/local level.
Online Resources for Collection Agents
The ACA provides an extensive website library, called Campus ACA. It’s the world’s leading educational resource for credit and collection professionals. It provides professional development and networking opportunities through classes, webinars, continuing education, and events. Some of these include:
Collector Training—an interactive, scenario-based training available in many formats to fit your training needs. Your collectors learn to apply their knowledge on the phones by using ACA’s training and educational products.
Advanced Designations—you can advance your career by earning one of ACA’s Credit and Collection Compliance Designations, Healthcare Collection Management, or Trainer Specialist Designations.
Professional Practices Management System (PPMS)—a management system for collection agencies based upon developing, implementing, and adhering to a set of industry-specific professional practices and policies.
Exhibits and Sponsorships—provides opportunities for suppliers to gain valuable exposure to top credit and collection professionals while promoting their products and services.
Support and Advice for Collection Agents
ACA has an established legal fund that is supported by dues from its members. This fund supports defense of legal issues provided the issues are relevant to the industry at large. The ACA is a major industry advocate, and seeks to provide a relevant voice in congress. They work to inform the public that the majority of debt collectors are above-board businesses and ensure their members are in good standing or risk losing their membership.
Related reading: The Top 8 Characteristics of Successful Collection Agents
The ACA can also provide you with advice on specific non-legal issues and suggest the best course of action based on precedent cases. They work to continuously educate members on the outcomes of specific cases so members stay informed and have the knowledge to always adhere to best practices in their business.
If you are in the debt collection business, the ACA is an invaluable resource for you. It can increase your knowledge of the industry and provide you with a variety of products, and services to make your job much easier.
Chris Cote has been with SWBC since 2011 and has more than 12 years of experience in the financial services industry. As the Compliance Officer for the SWBC Financial Institution Group, he works closely with unit management to ensure operations remain compliant with state and federal regulations and guidelines. He is also responsible for the quality assurance team that monitors calls for multiple SWBC divisions.