After Jesse investigates, state board postpones vote to loosen rules on collection companies

After Jesse investigates, state board postpones vote to loosen rules on collection companies
An emergency meeting to loosen rules for debt collectors was abruptly canceled after Jesse Jones started asking questions. (Katie McDowell)

The controversial emergency vote which would allow debt collectors to temporarily work from home was postponed just hours before its scheduled start this afternoon.

Sam Leonard, a lawyer and board member of the Northwest Consumer Law Center, says the meeting was fraught with problems.

“It’s kind of amazing is how, as soon as you ran a story about the meeting, they decided to not have the meeting anymore,” says Leonard.

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The board meeting was announced on Tuesday.

The text of the rule change wasn’t revealed until yesterday.

And there was going to be no public comment before the vote today.

All of this during a pandemic, protest and record unemployment.

“We need to hear all sides of the story. We need to allow people who are affected to show up and talk and tell their story on how this will affect them,” says Leonard.

Some consumer advocates say it’s problematic to allow debt collectors to have sensitive information like social security numbers at their homes. The industry is tightly regulated, and there are also questions about how collectors will be held accountable for their conduct.

This is the email sent out to the five board members at 1:53 p.m. The meeting was scheduled for four o’clock.


Mari Neubauer represents the public interest on the Washington Collection Agency Board and says the break allows everyone to hear the industry’s plan.

“Before remote work is allowed it’s important to ensure that those protections, that there are plans and opportunities for those protections to stay in place,” says Neubauer.

Board member Scott Kinkley sent this statement saying:

“This gives us a moment to think through the consequences of partially deregulating debt collectors in the midst of a pandemic that has lead to historic unemployment rates.”

I also asked an industry group what they think about the rule, and the impact the delayed vote will have on collection companies:

“The Washington Collector’s Association (WCA) is hopeful that the CAB will hold a meeting, in the near term, and allow professional and trained collection representatives to do their work from home.  We will continue to advocate for the safety of our employees during the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining data security and consumer protections.”

The board could call another emergency meeting or a special meeting at anytime, giving the public just 24 to 48 hours notice – again, with no public comment.

I’ll keep you updated.