The Debt Buyer’s Guide to Navigating the Licensing Labyrinth
It has been said, “there is no cookie cutter definition of a debt buyer.” The concept of a debt buyer is a complex one, with an ever-widening spectrum of potential licenses and regulations that apply to this role. Over the recent years, the definition of a debt buyer has seen numerous legislative revisions, affecting how debt buyers operate and necessitating a deeper understanding of their role and obligations.
Active and Passive Debt Buyers: The Diverse Spectrum
Debt buyers can be classified as either active or passive, each with its own unique set of regulations and licensing requirements. An active debt buyer is an entity that purchases defaulted debt and takes a hands-on approach in the collection of its purchased debts. This includes activities such as credit reporting and filing lawsuits. On the other hand, passive debt buyers are entities that purchase defaulted debts but delegate the collection of these debts to a licensed debt collector or attorney-at-law within their respective jurisdictions.
Specialty Licenses: An Additional Layer of Complexity
A specialty license is a license that is necessitated by specific triggers within a state statute. These triggers could be related to the type of debt bought, the interest rate charged, the level of delinquency of the debt, or the method of debt collection. These licenses add additional complexity to the process, as it’s not just about being a debt buyer but also understanding the nuances of the debt you’re purchasing and the strategies you’ll employ to recover it.
Regulatory Landscape: A Constantly Shifting Terrain
Each state has its own set of statutes that dictate the requirements and obligations of debt buyers. These legal landscapes are continually shifting, often leading to a lack of clarity and consistency in the industry.
Noteworthy Debt Buying Legislation
Wyoming House Bill 284
In Wyoming, for instance, House Bill 284 was signed into law on February 27, 2023. This law now requires debt buyers to be licensed as ‘collection agencies’ starting from July 1, 2023. Prior to this date, debt buyers were not required to be licensed in the state.
Nevada SB 276
Similarly, in Nevada, SB 276 was signed into law on June 16, 2023, revising provisions relating to debt collection agencies and making amendments to the state’s collection agency licensing law. The Act expanded the activities that require a collection agency license, including any “debt buyer” who is regularly engaged in the business of purchasing charged-off debts for collection purposes.
The Challenges Facing Debt Buyers
The ambiguity surrounding the definition and licensing requirements of debt buyers has led to increased lawsuits and potential regulatory risks. Given the lack of consistency and industry standards, it’s not surprising that the plaintiff’s bar is finding more holes in regulations, leading to an increase in licensing-related lawsuits against debt buyers.
Navigating the Licensing Labyrinth
The world of debt buying is complex and fraught with challenges. However, with the right knowledge and guidance, debt buyers can navigate this labyrinth successfully. As the industry evolves, so too must the strategies and understanding of those operating within it.
If you are a debt buyer, it is imperative that you understand what licensing or registration requirements are necessary for each consumer debt portfolio that you are looking at prior to purchase and subsequent collection efforts. Be conservative in your approach and get a legal opinion. Have that opinion updated as your portfolio changes – different asset classes require different licensing. Amidst all the confusion, there are experts in the industry who can take care of all your licensing problems.