On July 15, 2015, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs released a letter in response to a request from a collection agency regarding the time frame within which an individual must respond to a collection agency’s callback number and whether the consumer may be asked to leave a voicemail message.
Specifically, the following questions were asked:
- How quickly should a phone call from a New York consumer to a debt collection agency be connected to an individual [The answer: 120 seconds]
- Whether a consumer can be “ordered to leave a voicemail” instead of connecting the call within the required time [The answer: no]
The response letter goes on to state that Administrative Code § 20-493.1(a)(i) requires debt collection agencies to provide consumers with “a callback number at a telephone answered by a natural person” in every communication. New York City Rules Title 6 (the “Rules”) § 2-194(a) requires that a call to the callback number be: (1) answered directly by a natural person qualified to answer calls for consumer information on the debt in question; or (2) in the event that a debt collection agency uses call routing technology, routed to the individual’s telephone extension within 60 seconds and answered by that individual within 60 seconds of routing of the call. Thus, a consumer’s call to a collection agency must be answered by a natural person within a maximum of 120 seconds after the consumer’s call has been connected to the collection agency’s telephone line.
Section 2-194(b) of the Rules requires that this callback number be answered by a natural person “at any time a debt collection agency is doing business with consumers.” Thus, during business hours of a collection agency, calls from New York City consumers cannot be directed to a voicemail.