SECTION 1. This act shall be known as the “Debt Collection Licensure Parity Act.”
SECTION 2. Section 24 of chapter 93 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended, in lines 17 through 59, inclusive, by striking the definition of “debt collector” in its entirety and inserting in place thereof the following:
''Debt collector'', any person who: (i) uses an instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of a debt, (ii) who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, a debt owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another, or (iii) engages in any business the principal purpose of which is the purchase of charged-off debt for collection purposes in the commonwealth, whether it collects the debt itself, hires a third party for collection, or retains an attorney in order to collect such debt. Notwithstanding this definition, a person who purchases charged-off debt as an investment and exclusively contracts with a licensed debt collector or attorney for the collection of the debt who has filed an application with the commissioner for a license before the close of business on December 31, 2017 and whose application remains pending with the commissioner on and after January 1, 2018 may continue to operate without a license until the commissioner approves or denies the application. Notwithstanding the exclusion provided by clause (f), debt collector shall include a creditor who, in the process of collecting his own debt, uses any name other than his own which would indicate that a third person is collecting or attempting to collect the debt. Debt collector shall also include a person who uses an instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in a business the principal purpose of which is the enforcement of security interests. Debt collector shall not include:
(a) an officer or employee of a creditor while, in the name of the creditor, collecting debts for the creditor;
(b) a person while acting as a debt collector for another person, both of whom are related by common ownership or affiliated by corporate control, if the person acting as a debt collector does so only for a person to whom it is so related or affiliated and if the principal business of the person is not the collection of a debt;
(c) an officer or employee of the United States or a state of the United States to the extent that collecting or attempting to collect a debt is in the performance of his official duty;
(d) a person while serving or attempting to serve legal process on another person in connection with the judicial enforcement of a debt;
(e) a nonprofit organization which, at the request of a consumer, performs bona fide consumer credit counseling and assists the consumer in the liquidation of debts by receiving payments from the consumer and distributing the amounts to creditors;
(f) a person collecting or attempting to collect a debt owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another to the extent the activity (i) is incidental to a bona fide fiduciary obligation or a bona fide escrow arrangement; (ii) concerns a debt which was originated by the person; (iii) concerns a debt which was not in default at the time it was obtained by the person; or (iv) concerns a debt obtained by the person as a secured party in a commercial credit transaction involving the creditor;
(g) attorneys-at-law collecting a debt on behalf of a client; and
(h) an agent or independent contractor employed for the purpose of collecting a charge or bill owed by a tenant to a landlord or owed by a customer to a corporation subject to the supervision of the department of public utilities or the department of telecommunications and cable or the division of insurance insofar as the person collects charges or bills only for the landlord or supervised corporations.
SECTION 4. Section 24A of said chapter 93, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking subsection (a) in its entirety and inserting in place thereof the following:
(a)No person shall directly or indirectly engage in the commonwealth in the business of a debt collector, or engage in the commonwealth in soliciting the right to collect or receive payment for another of an account, bill or other indebtedness, or advertise for or solicit in print the right to collect or receive payment for another of an account, bill or other indebtedness, without first obtaining from the commissioner a license to carry on the business, nor unless the person or the person for whom he or it may be acting as agent has on file with the state treasurer a good and sufficient bond. Bonds shall not be required of any person who engages in any business the principal purpose of which is the purchase of charged-off debt for collection purposes and does not otherwise act as a third party debt collector.
SECTION 5. Section 24B of said chapter 93, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting at the end thereof the following new subsection:
(d) The commissioner shall permit affiliated companies to be under a single license and subject to a single examination as long as all of the affiliated company names are listed on the license. The commissioner in regulation shall determine what constitutes an “affiliated company”.
SECTION 6. This Act shall take effect on January 1, 2018. This act shall not affect the validity of any collection actions taken, civil actions or arbitrations commenced, or judgments entered prior to this date.
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