With potential ‘devastating’ measure on Capitol Hill, ARA highlights plans for NARS 2021
The American Recovery Association (ARA) recently announced the new theme for the North American Repossessors Summit (NARS), which will return as an in-person event in October.
That theme, “Resilience: Rising Above and Committed to Building a Stronger Industry,” ties in significantly with a cautionary alert ARA sent soon afterward about a proposal working its way through Congress that would expand the definition of a debt collector and potentially increase risks to finance companies.
With headline sponsor Harding Brooks Insurance, ARA highlighted that with unity at the forefront of the summit, the NARS planning committee comprised of volunteers from all sides of the recovery industry established a theme that is designed to reflect the need for the entire industry to come together to rebuild and move forward in the wake of the pandemic.
Taking into consideration the unique obstacles business owners have overcome in the past year, ARA said it arrived at its theme for NARS that’s also sponsored by MVTRAC and set to take place at the Omni Las Colinas Hotel in Irving, Texas, on Oct. 7-8.
“We are thrilled to welcome back an in-person NARS event in 2021,” ARA president Dave Kennedy said in a news release. “While we planned a great NARS 2020 prior to postponing, the committee recognized the fundamental shift that the entire industry experienced over the past year. We knew we needed to bring an overall theme that represented the strength and perseverance our industry has shown.”
After having to be postponed due to safety issues and travel restrictions, ARA said the 12th NARS summit will bring recovery professionals from all over the country to be together once again and connect person-to-person.
During the summit, there will be various opportunities for exhibitors and sponsors, breakout sessions that foster collaboration and education and dynamic, inspiring speakers from within the industry and beyond. With the goals of establishing repossession standards and addressing the state of the industry, NARS 2021 will include empowering sessions that focus on fortifying the industry to withstand any obstacle.
Registration is open at reposummit.com, with extended regular registration pricing until Aug. 15. In addition, to incentivize and encourage business owners to bring members of their staff, the NARS committee has introduced discounted tiered pricing after the first two registrations.
ARA members also can receive early-bird registration prices until two weeks from the conference.
Controversial bill advances in House
In a separate message, ARA recapped what happened on the U.S. House floor on Thursday that could impact what's being discussed during NARS.
ARA said the House passed the Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act (H.R. 2547) by a vote of 215-207. The measure, which now heads to the Senate for consideration, may have a “devastating” impact on the repossession industry, according to the association.
ARA recapped that Article 9-609 of the Uniform Commercial Code allows finance companies and their agents to repossess a vehicle as long there is no breach of peace.
“We are considered “enforcing a security interest” and not collecting a debt. And, until now it was understood that we are not under the requirements of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,” ARA said.
“All of this might change. If left unchallenged, the recovery professional would be reclassified as a debt collector,” the association continued.
ARA went into six more elements about how the measure could impact vehicle repossessions, including:
• As debt collectors, repossession agents would have to notify the debtor by a written notice, specifying the amount of money owed, who the creditor is, and advise them of what action they should take if they contest the debt.
• All contact with the consumer would need to contain language identifying yourself as a debt collector. Contact must be free of profane or abusive language (so agents need to hold their tongue or face a federal lawsuit).
• It would strengthen the government’s grip over a repossession agency’s name (like “Final Notice” or anything vaguely aggressive) or anything that could be at all misconstrued as a governmental agency (like “Nevada Recovery Bureau” for example).
• It could make it a federal offense to damage any property in the course of a repossession. Hitting a mailbox, or even drag marks on a driveway could be considered an FDCPA violation, which would allow the consumer to sue finance companies and repo agents in federal court.
• Even a third party (a neighbor, a relative, etc.) seeing the repossession in process may be a violation by “publicizing” the debt, which is forbidden by the FDCPA. Debt collectors are not allowed to make the existence of a debt known to uninvolved third parties. This alone could easily make a repossession from a place of employment impossible if a car on the hook is seen by any other employee there.
• It would restrict the times of day or night when you might be in contact with the consumer, even inadvertently. A debtor coming out to the driveway to interrupt a repossession would be a violation if it occurred after 9 p.m., for instance.
“All this could make repossession activity unbelievably complicated and legally risky,” ARA said.
The association emphasized the Repo Alliance is its “best line of defense.” The alliance is working with lobbyists at Van Scoyoc Associates in Washington D.C., and already speaking to members of Congress about the unintended and adverse consequences of this change to reclassify repossession agents as a debt collector.
To help support the efforts of the Repo Alliance, go to this website.