The news that the entire ARM industry will be talking about in the coming days and weeks is the ruling from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in a lawsuit filed by ACA International against the Federal Communications Commission. The lawsuit was filed back in July 2015, when the FCC announced it was making changes to how the Telephone Consumer Protection Act was interpreted.
The changes announced back in 2015 led to many companies in the ARM industry to radically alter how they attempted to contact consumers, especially when trying to reach them on their mobile phones. The ruling issued March 16 from the Appeals Court could undo some of those changes and reduce the chances of collection agencies being sued for violating the TCPA. The ruling could be appealed to the Supreme Court by either ACA International or the FCC, so the fight might not be over yet.
Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC who voted against the changes back in 2015, lauded the Appeals Court decision and said it was a prime example of “regulatory overreach.”
The industry has been expecting the compliance burdens to be lessened under President Trump and based on some of the changes that have occurred at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it definitely seems to appear as though the regulatory pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction.
But is that a good thing?
For years, or at least as long as the CFPB has been talking about issuing a rule governing debt collection, the industry has pretty much stuck to the same tune: Tell us what the rules are and we will follow them. The problem has been that the goalposts keep getting moved. Whether by enforcement actions from the CFPB or legal rulings or rules or laws at the state level, being compliant is never a fixed target. It seems to change every day.
For the ARM industry, compliance should be more than just following whatever the rules of the day are. Compliance needs to be a state of mind, a culture, an embedded thread that ties everything it does together. Compliance needs to be fluid, so that agencies can adapt to changing rules and regulations, like when a court ruling comes out on a lazy Friday morning that has the potential to upend how individuals are contacted.
Being compliant should be more than just following the letter of the law. It should be about always trying to do the right thing.