Massachusetts Attorney General Enjoined from Enforcing Regulations Prohibiting Debt Collection Activities During COVID-19 Emergency

By Charles Ognibene

We previously posted about the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Emergency Regulations limiting debt collection activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Federal District Court enjoined the Massachusetts Attorney General from enforcing those regulations to the extent they prohibit debt collectors from making telephone calls or initiating court actions. The court’s order is based largely on constitutional protection of free speech and does not address the provisions of the emergency regulation prohibiting repossessions. While repossessions were not before the court, note that a ban on repossessions could be supported by public health interests and the need to avoid personal interactions.  Note also that the order applies to debt collectors, collecting debts of others, as that is the constituency of the plaintiff. It does not address whether the regulations should be struck as to creditors collecting their own debts in their own names, but one would expect that if a debt collector is permitted to do an act, a creditor should be so permitted as well.

For more information concerning the impact of COVID-19 on Massachusetts consumer financing regulations, contact Charles A. OgnibeneMike Garcia or Mike Grant, all in Duane Morris’ Boston office.