On April 7, the District of Columbia passed the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency and Temporary Amendment Act of 2020 which goes into effect immediately and lasts until 60 days after the emergency ends. The law prohibits debt collectors from initiating any communication with a debtor through any written or electronic communication, including email or text message, or telephone. In addition, the law prohibits both creditors and debt collectors from initiating legal proceedings, repossessions, or visiting a consumer’s home regarding debts that are secured by a vehicle.
In contrast, the Massachusetts emergency regulation only restricts telephone calls to consumers. The Massachusetts Attorney General clarified in Guidance in Response to Frequently Asked Questions Concerning 940 CMR 35.00, that the Massachusetts emergency regulation does not restrict the use of text messages and email to communicate with a debtor. There had been initial uncertainty as to whether the restriction on telephone calls by “debt collectors” also applied to creditors. The Massachusetts AG also clarified in the guidance that first-party service providers collecting on behalf of creditors in the creditor’s name are subject to the emergency regulation’s call restriction but creditors collecting their own debts, in their own names, and using their own employees are not.
In both D.C. and Massachusetts, debt collectors may respond to requests made by the debtor and the restrictions do not apply to communications solely for the purpose of informing debtors of rescheduled court appearance dates or discussing a mutually convenient time for a rescheduled court appearance.