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Spotlighting California debt-collection licensing reform bill

It still has some ground to pave legislatively prior to becoming law, but a California Senate bill seeking a material adjustment in the debt-collection industry unquestionably has traction.

The would-be law with the shorthand designation of SB 908 garnered Senate approval earlier this week. That development moved it one step closer to formal enactment as a new measure regulating California's sprawling collection sphere.

There are critics - many and diverse - of the vast debt industry, specifically its collection arm. Their condemnation centers especially on a level of abuse they say is longstanding and rampant.

SB 908 seeks to curb that. The prospective law zeroes in on licensing and what the bill's author (Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont) terms "a gaping loophole that needs to be closed to protect California consumers."

Wieckowski and fellow reform proponents hope to effect significant pro-consumer change by requiring a strong regulatory program to oversee licensing for debt industry professionals. SB 908 calls for close controls in the future exercised by the state's Department of Business Oversight. The DBO's projected role would centrally include scrutiny of borrowers' complaints, management of a new required licensing system, and primary authority in taking enforcement actions against proven violations.

The bill commands widespread endorsement among pro-consumer groups, including Consumer Reports, the Consumer Federation of California and the Center for Responsible Lending.

Questions or concerns regarding debt-collection licensing or other licensing mandates can be directed to an established license-defense law firm with a statewide presence.

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