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New rules may give creditors more access to your life

Right now, there are limits on how often creditors can contact you to demand payment -- and by what methods. Legitimate debt collection companies know they have to abide by these limits and that there are stiff penalties for crossing them. They can even be sued by the debtors they're trying to collect from if they go too far over the line.

Well, under new rules proposed by the federal government, those lines may get a lot blurrier and the consequences a lot less imposing when it comes to what constitutes creditor harassment.

The new rules proposed by the current administration would update the 1977 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Under the current rules, for example, debt collectors can't call a consumer about a debt "repeatedly or continuously" -- although exactly how that is defined is not specified.

The FDCPA was written, obviously, before cellphones and email were even things, and debt collectors want to clarify their rights in that area. The new rules proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are supposed to "modernize the legal regime" so that debt collection is brought into the digital era.

The proposed rules aren't making anybody very happy. Debt collectors will be barred from "reaching out" via social media, but they will have the ability to send unlimited texts and emails in an effort to collect. On the other hand, they may only actually phone the debtor seven times within a single week. If they do reach the debtor, they may not attempt another contact for seven days.

Advocates for consumers think the rules are too lax regarding text messages and emails, while debt collectors think the limits on phone calls are too much.

Whatever the final version of the rules that ends up in place turns out to be, one thing is for certain: Places of refuge for people overwhelmed with debt will get a little bit smaller. If you're struggling with overwhelming debts in Louisville without the ability to repay, it might be time to consider options such as bankruptcy.

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