Preparing for the Post-COVID-19 Regulatory Reckoning

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Throughout my Receivables Management Association International (RMAI) Certified Receivables Compliance Professional (CRCP) series, I’ve been sharing a great deal of information about the changes in our industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been highlighting the changes regarding consumer debt collection practices as a result of federal and state emergency orders. Shifting gears from the present changes to the future landscape, what I have learned from the Preparing for the Post-COVID-19 Regulatory Reckoning webinar focuses on ensuring that the changes affecting our industry have established procedural changes so that any future audits will show compliance during this unprecedented time.   

The chief question we all need to ask ourselves now is: does your business have systems in place in order to weather any audits based on the changes in the regulatory landscape due to the pandemic? As part of answering this crucial question, we must realize every day that not only is the regulatory landscape changing due to the pandemic, but also the fact that we’re not “returning to normal” in the foreseeable future. Thus, we must establish paths for our businesses to continue to operate successfully and compliantly in this ever-changing situation, including the development of procedure sets for cataclysmic events. We should be asking ourselves throughout this evolving situation: what changes have been, are, or will be implemented in our business to show compliance, adaptation, and business development if audited at any point to demonstrate regulatory tractability?

Practically speaking, documentation covers many of our bases to demonstrate compliance. Developing written policies and procedures that reflect the known changes in the regulations will provide insulation for any future potential audits or issues. Simply documenting what changes were made, when they were made, who made them, how or why they were made, and even acknowledgment of any ambiguity inherent in the regulatory changes are all essential factors to document and be aware of. We’ve seen throughout these regulatory changes differences in what orders, for instance, mayors and governors are implementing for their localities. Ambiguity and confusion reign currently; however, using this as an excuse for non-compliance isn’t a practical option. Having documented acknowledgments of your attempts to follow the myriad of regulatory changes will likely garner flexibility in any future audit process.  

While perhaps the most extreme version of policy and procedural changes is developing entire procedure sets for cataclysmic events, if this process seems daunting, it is still important to evaluate whether your business will develop entirely new plans. The benefit of such a plan is that it could also apply to other emergency orders: for instance, natural disasters that may affect your collection areas in the future. A comprehensive disaster plan also allows your business to have training policies for your staff in place rather than training on the fly as many of us are currently doing. 

As we develop these plans, we must imagine being asked the following questions by regulators or auditors: 

What changes did you make in your business during this time? 

What training did you give your employees to ensure compliance during this time?

What is your company’s hardship policy? At what point do you decide to activate this policy?

What has your company done to honor any good faith efforts by your consumers?

Where is the documentation of these changes and information?

Now is a time of change and adaptation is essential for future success. Development of sound business practices to ensure compliance and documentation of these changes are the two main necessities to consider now and into the future to maintain the stability of our businesses and industry. This is especially relevant considering we currently don’t know which of these regulatory changes may remain even after this pandemic is over.

Another important consideration is ensuring that anyone and everyone you work with is also compliant. At Tag Process, as we contract with other agencies and act as vendors for them, we are ahead of the curve for ensuring compliance and planning for contingencies. We manage our business and develop our business practices to minimize liability and work in the best interest of everyone involved. Reach out today and schedule a brief call to see how we can help you!

Disclaimer 

This information is not legal advice and may not be used as legal advice. Information discussed or contained is not an explanation of the law and is presented for educational purposes only.

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