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Waters Floor Statement on Her Comprehensive Debt Collection Reform Bill

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, gave the following statement on the House floor urging the passage of her bill H.R. 2547, The Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act. The bill passed the House by a vote of 215-207.

Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of my legislation, H.R. 2547, the Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act. H.R. 2547 is a package of bills designed to bring new protections, fairness, accuracy and transparency to the debt collection industry.

Individuals and families across the country have long  struggled with debt – including medical debt, student loan debt, and other debts—and they often face difficult decisions regarding how to pay off their debts. 

During the pandemic crisis, which has harmed all of our communities, debt collectors have earned record profits. Their tactics are often abusive and predatory. Many debt collectors harass consumers with frequent phone calls, make threats, and provide misleading information to consumers. The debt collection industry is also plagued by poor record-keeping, resulting in many consumers being harassed for debts that they do not owe. Debt collection is among the top issues that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau receives the most complaints about from consumers, and those complaints have risen since 2019.

This bill, H.R. 2547, brings new accountability to the debt collection industry and stronger protections for consumers from harassment and abuse, including by banning abusive confessions of judgment that have hurt small businesses, prohibiting debt collectors from harassing and threatening servicemembers, barring the collection of medical debt for two years after the debt is incurred, prohibiting debt collectors from contacting consumers by email or text message without a consumer’s affirmative consent, limiting egregious debt collection fees that have disproportionately hurt low-income and minority borrowers, and protecting consumers during a non-judicial foreclosure proceeding. Taken together, these protections will help the most vulnerable consumers, including servicemembers, student borrowers, people of color, and those struggling under the weight of medical debt during this unprecedented pandemic.

None of this is to say that people who owe lawful debts shouldn’t pay them. But all Americans deserve to be free from harassment, undue pressure tactics, bullying, false information, threats, coercion, and the other bad practices that debt collectors have used with relative impunity. The last time Congress made major updates to federal laws on debt collection was in 1978, over 40 years ago. It’s long overdue for Congress to act to provide stronger protections from abusive debt collectors for consumers. 

This comprehensive package includes a number of bills authored by several hardworking Members of the Financial Services Committee, specifically bills sponsored by Representatives Velázquez, Dean, Tlaib, Pressley, Cleaver, Meeks, and Auchincloss. I would like to thank all of them for their work on those bills, their contributions to this legislative package and their leadership on these important reforms that will provide desperately-needed relief and protections to consumers. So, I would urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation, and with that I reserve the balance of my time.

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