by Jeff Sovern
H.R. 5802 passed the House Financial Services Committee today, on a 35-25 vote. The bill would exempt from the FDCPA any lawyer to the extent that the lawyer "is engaged in litigation activities in connection with a legal action in a court of law to collect a debt . . ." If the attorney sues the consumer on the debt, the bill excludes from the FDCPA "any other activities engaged in as part of the practice of law . . . ." I'm not sure exactly what that would cover, but it presumably means that attorneys can do things normally prohibited by the FDCPA as long as it is part of the practice of law. For example, the FDCPA prohibits collectors from disclosing to third parties the existence of the debt. Will lawyers now be able to tell consumers' employers that they are being sued on a debt and therefore their wages may be garnished at some point in the future? Is that "part of the practice of law"? Will lawyers be able to call consumer-debtors at times normally forbidden to collectors under the FDCPA? Will attorneys be able to make abusive statements to consumers in communications about the law suit?