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Collections vs marketing opt-in
LexopJun 25, 2024 11:40:25 AM6 min read

Collections vs. Marketing: What You Need to Know About Opt-In Requirements

In the financial services industry, effectively and compliantly communicating with members about overdue payments is crucial. Unlike marketing communications, first-party collection notices (sent directly by the original creditor) are exempt from opt-in requirements. This distinction is rooted in the necessity of these communications for managing existing obligations, whereas marketing messages are designed to promote new services or products and require explicit consent to protect consumer privacy.


Understanding Opt-In: Why Collection Notices Are Different from Marketing Messages

This blog post will review the legal frameworks, best practices, and critical considerations for first-party collectors when sending collection notices via email or text. It will explain why these notices are exempt from opt-ins, how they differ from marketing communications, and what you need to know to ensure compliance and maintain positive member relationships.

**Disclaimer: Laws and regulations are subject to change. It is the collector's responsibility to stay informed about current legislation and ensure ongoing compliance. This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.


Distinction from Marketing Communications

Take note of the key differences between debt collection and marketing communications to ensure compliance:

  • Collection Notices: These do not require an opt-in because they are considered necessary communications about an existing obligation and are governed by the FDCPA and E-SIGN Act.
  • Marketing Communications: These require explicit opt-in due to the CAN-SPAM Act, TCPA, and CASL to protect consumers from unsolicited promotions. Marketing emails must include clear identification, accurate subject lines, a physical address, and an easy opt-out mechanism.


Legal Framework

An understanding of the legal landscape is essential for compliant debt collection practices. Here are the key U.S. and Canadian regulations:



  • Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA): This federal law allows creditors and third-party debt collectors to communicate with debtors through various means, including email and text messages, without needing an explicit opt-in. However, these communications must adhere to guidelines on the time, place, and manner of contact to avoid harassment and ensure ethical practices. The primary purpose of these communications is to inform the debtor of their overdue obligations, making an opt-in unnecessary.
  • Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN Act): This act facilitates the use of electronic records and signatures in interstate commerce. If a member has provided their email or phone number during a transaction, the creditor can use these electronic means to send billing or collection notices.
  • CAN-SPAM Act: This law governs marketing emails and requires businesses to obtain explicit consent from individuals before sending promotional emails. It mandates that recipients have the option to opt out of future communications easily. However, it does not apply to collection notices, which are considered necessary communications about existing obligations.
  • Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA):This act regulates marketing text messages and phone calls, requiring explicit written consent from consumers before a business can send marketing messages. It aims to prevent unsolicited marketing communications and protect consumer privacy but does not apply to debt collection notices.



  • Debt collection practices in Canada are regulated at both the federal and provincial levels. First-party collectors can send collection notices, but they must comply with the relevant provincial regulations, which aim to protect consumers from unfair or abusive practices. Always refer to the specific laws in your operating province for detailed requirements and guidelines.
  • Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL): This Canadian law requires businesses to obtain express or implied consent before sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs), including emails and texts, to recipients in Canada. CASL also mandates clear identification of the sender and an easy way for recipients to unsubscribe from future messages.


Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Guidelines

Staying updated with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) guidelines is crucial to ensure ethical and compliant debt collection practices. This involves making sure that all communications with debtors are clear, accurate, and non-deceptive, as misleading or confusing messages can lead to complaints and potential legal action. Additionally, it is essential to follow the latest CFPB regulations and guidelines regularly to maintain compliance and avoid legal issues.


Collection Notice Frequency and Timing

Adhere to regulations regarding the frequency and timing of communications to avoid harassment:
Permissible Hours: The FDCPA restricts communication times to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time of the debtor. Respect these boundaries to avoid legal complaints.
Reasonable Frequency: Avoid over-communicating with debtors, which can lead to complaints and potential legal issues. Ensure that the frequency of messages is reasonable and compliant with regulations.


Compliance with Stricter State Laws

In addition to federal laws, be aware of state-specific regulations that may impose additional requirements on debt collection practices. Some states, such as California and New York, have stricter laws regarding communication frequency, methods, and content. Ensure compliance with these state-specific laws to avoid legal repercussions.


Privacy and Confidentiality

Protecting member privacy is paramount in debt collection communications. Ensure that collection notices do not disclose sensitive information that could be accessed by unauthorized parties. For example, sending detailed account information in unencrypted emails or texts is considered a bad practice, as it exposes sensitive data to potential breaches. Instead, use secure communication methods to protect this information. Additionally, only include the information required to inform the debtor of the amount due, the payment deadline, and how to make a payment. Over-sharing details, such as providing a complete account statement or disclosing personal information, can lead to privacy breaches and legal issues. A good practice is to keep communications concise and focused on the essential information required for the debtor to address the overdue payment.


Use of Technology

When using automated systems to send collection notices, ensure that the technology complies with all relevant laws and regulations. Automated systems should adhere to regulations concerning the timing and frequency of communications. For instance, to avoid violating the FDCPA, an automated system must not send messages outside of permissible hours, such as between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time.

Additionally, it is essential to keep detailed logs of all communications sent to debtors, including timestamps and content. This practice helps demonstrate compliance in case of disputes. For example, if a debtor claims they received messages outside of allowed hours, having accurate logs can help verify that the communications were sent within the legal timeframe.


Opt-Out Mechanisms

It’s good practice to provide a mechanism for debtors to request communication through their preferred channels. Allowing debtors to choose their preferred method of communication (e.g., email, text, phone) can improve response rates and satisfaction.


Third-Party Service Providers

Ensure third-party compliance with all relevant laws and conduct regular audits to maintain adherence to best practices and legal requirements. Regular audits should cover critical areas such as the frequency and timing of communications, ensuring messages are sent within permissible hours and do not exceed allowed limits. Audits should also verify that required disclosures are included in communications, such as identifying the debt collector and providing a method for disputing the debt. Additionally, security measures should be reviewed to ensure sensitive information is protected. Both the original creditor and the third-party provider share responsibility for compliance, so verifying adherence to all relevant laws is essential to mitigate risks and ensure legal operation in the debt collection process.



Adhering to these best practices and legal requirements ensures that your communication with members about overdue payments is compliant, effective, and respectful. Remember, collection notices don’t require opt-ins, unlike marketing messages, which do need explicit consent. By following these guidelines, you can maintain positive member relationships, stay compliant with the law, and avoid potential legal issues.





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