On July 15, 2015, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs issued a letter in response to an inquiry from a collection agency regarding the time in which a debt collection agency’s call-back number must be answered by a natural person, and whether the consumer may be directed to leave a voicemail.
Specifically, the following questions were asked:
- Within what time period must a telephone call from a New York City consumer to a debt collection agency be connected to a natural person [The answer: 120 seconds]
- If a consumer may be “directed to leave a voice message” in lieu of connecting the call within the required time period [The answer: no]
The response letter goes on to clarify that Administrative Code § 20-493.1 (a)(i) requires that debt collection agencies provide consumers with “a call-back number to a phone that is answered by a natural person” in every communication. Title 6 of the Rules of the City of New York (the “Rules”) § 2-194(a) requires that a call to the call-back number must either be: (1) answered directly by a natural person qualified to answer consumer inquiries about the subject debt; or (2) in the case where a debt collection agency utilizes call routing technology, routed to the natural person’s telephone extension within 60 seconds and answered by that natural person within 60 seconds after the call has been routed. Thus, a consumer’s call to a debt collection agency must be answered by a natural person within a maximum of 120 seconds after the consumer’s call is linked to the debt collection agency’s telephone line.
Section 2-194(b) of the Rules requires that call-back number to be answered by a natural person “during all times when a debt collection agency conducts business with consumers.” So, during a collection agency’s business hours, calls from New York City consumers may not be directed to a voice message mailbox.