Communications from debt collectors in New York must include formats for the visually impaired

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On October 8, the Governor of New York signed Bill n ° AO-2260A to help borrowers who need visually impaired accommodation. Bill AO-2260A is “a law amending general business law, with regard to the obligation of debt collectors to inform debtors that written communications are available in large print” (or under other different formats). In short, this law will require “major creditors” and “debt collectors” to inform a consumer in their “initial communication” that the consumer may request future communications in a “reasonably accommodating format” such as large print, braille. , audio compact disc, or other alternatives. This law comes into force November 7, 2021.

The new law will amend the New York Debt Collection Procedures Act, NY Gen. Bus. Law § 600. More specifically, the amendment adds § 601-b, which provides:

Each principal creditor or collector must, in each initial communication, clearly and visibly disclose to the debtor that each communication may be provided in an alternate, reasonably accommodating format. This disclosure must essentially contain the following elements:

(a) A statement that the consumer may request the letter in an alternate, reasonably accommodating format chosen by the primary creditor or debt collector, such as large print, braille, audio compact disc or other means; and

(b) A business telephone number that the consumer can call to make such a request.

The amendment provides that “a principal creditor or a debt collector providing reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 shall not be deemed to have violated” the new law.

We note that the bill states that the creditor or debt collector, not the consumer, can choose which alternative format will be made available. We envision future litigation from blind consumers if the only alternative format available to them is large print.

In addition, the amendment adds several key definitions, including “communication”, “debt” and “debt collector”. The definitions of “communication” and “debt” mirror those found under the FDCPA, but the definition of “debt collector” differs slightly. The current version of the law already defines “principal creditor”, which is the owner of a “consumer claim” and a “consumer claim”, which is an obligation “presumed to be in default and which arises from a transaction. ”With a natural person and“ was primarily for personal, family or household purposes ”.

Finally, New York amended the “Violations and Sanctions” section of the existing law to clarify that anyone who violates the existing prohibited practices of § 601 or the new large print notification requirement is guilty of an offense. The new law also provides that a violation by any person of § 601-a is punishable by monetary penalties – a first offense is punishable by a civil fine not exceeding $ 250 and any subsequent offense is punishable by a fine of $ 500. Section 601-a is part of the existing law, which prohibits principal creditors and debt collectors from making “any statement that a person is required to pay the debt of a family member in any manner. which contravenes the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ”or to make“ any misrepresentation regarding the family member’s obligation to pay such debts ”.

To take with

With such a short window before compliance with the alternative notification requirement begins, those with compliance obligations under the law should act quickly to implement a plan to provide the required notifications. Also, as part of the plan, it is imperative that you fully understand the options you can make available to consumers – large print, braille, audio, or others – and the potential risks associated with each of these accommodations. Finally, the section on civil penalties seems to refer to a limited part of the existing law instead of the new section on alternative opinions, but this seems incongruous with the legislative history of the law. Hopefully those affected by the law will receive additional guidance regarding the civil penalties section.

© 2021 Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLPRevue nationale de droit, volume XI, number 305


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