The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has updated its regulatory agenda and now expects pre-rule activities for debt collection to last through February 2016.

Pre-rule activities refer to measures the CFPB is taking to prepare for issuing proposed regulations. In its last regulatory agenda released in May, the CFPB predicted pre-rule activities involving debt collection would last through December.

The recently released Fall 2015 Regulatory Agenda categorizes rulemaking actions by stage as either pre-rule, proposed rule, final rule, long term actions or completed actions. The next semi-annual agenda will reflect the results of further prioritization and planning.

While the announcement marks yet another delay in the timing of debt collection rulemaking, by pushing back the expected timeframe for pre-rule activities by just two months, it indicates the CFPB believes it’s getting closer to the next steps of the highly anticipated rulemaking. 

The next pre-rule activity for debt collection involves convening a review panel under the the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). The SBREFA panel, which includes representatives from the CFPB, the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration and the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, offers a chance for the CFPB to gather input from small businesses that are likely to be directly impacted by any regulations issued by the CFPB.

While this indicates the CFPB wants to move forward with the SBREFA process for debt collection, the latest regulatory agenda only means that the CFPB expects pre-rule activities to last through February. It doesn’t necessarily mean a proposed rule for debt collection will be released at that time.

As an example, the SBREFA panel met with small business representatives in April to discuss potential payday lending rules. But in the latest regulatory agenda, the CFPB estimates it won't release a notice of proposed rulemaking for payday lending until February. That timeline could mean that even if the CFPB is correct that the debt collection SBREFA process concludes in February, there could still be a delay before the debt collection proposed rule is released. 

In the updated agenda, the CFPB continues to state that it's in the process of analyzing responses to a consumer survey regarding experiences with debt collectors, as well as engaging in qualitative testing to determine what information would be useful for consumers to have about debt collection and how that information should be provided to them. That language indicates the substance of debt collection rulemaking hasn’t changed.

Credit reporting and student loan servicing were hot topics for the CFPB this year. In the latest regulatory agenda, the CFPB includes both as "long-term actions," which identifies them as potential initiatives beyond November 2016.

For credit reporting, the CFPB states that it will evaluate potential additional rules or amendments to existing rules, which could include the accuracy of credit reports and the processes for resolving consumer disputes.

For student loan servicing, the CFPB states it will continue to monitor the market for trends and developments and evaluate possible policy responses, including potentially proposing rules on such topics as specific acts or practices and consumer disclosures.

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