Posted by Chris Alarie on Mon, 03/01/2021 - 14:11
In November of last year, telecommunications carrier T-Mobile quietly made a change to its Code of Conduct that could potentially have enormous consequences: it listed debt collection among what it considers to be “disallowed content.” As a result, it is possible that T-Mobile will block all debt collection text messages—even those that are legal and sent with the consent of the recipient—to its users.
T-Mobile did not widely announce this change—it was first reported by insideARM—making it difficult to determine how it will be implemented or if it is already in effect. But if T-Mobile does indeed block all debt collection text messages sent through its network, it would raise a whole host of important questions, such as:
- How will the blocking mechanism work?
- Will there be technical and legal workarounds for collectors to reach consumers who want to receive debt collection texts?
- How will the carrier distinguish debt collection texts from other texts related to personal finance?
- Will this lead to broader consequences for text message communication efforts from financial institutions, including affecting such important features as two-factor authentication?
- How will this affect T-Mobile’s own debt collection efforts?
- How will this affect consumers who are attempting to pay their debts and prefer to be contacted via text message?
- What will the broader legal consequences be for such a significant ban?
- Will there be lawsuits or regulatory action to clarify this policy?
- Does this conflict with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) debt collection rule that explicitly allows the use of text messaging for debt collection purposes?
- Will this policy spread to other carriers?
We can expect that many of these questions, and others, will be answered over the coming months. We will continue to monitor this story for developments.