Debt Collection – Licensee
Conditional Licensing – Per the passage of AB 156 as of January 1, 2023, DFPI will begin approving Conditional Licenses for Debt Collectors. See Licensing Information in the Frequently Ask Question Section for more information on conditional licenses. Additionally, the bill requires the commissioner to allow any debt collector that submits an application before January 1, 2023, to operate pending the approval or denial of the application.
The Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) provides licensure, regulation, and oversight of California debt collection practices under the California Consumer Financial Protection Law, 2021 (CCFPL) and the Debt Collection Licensing Act, 2022 (DCLA). Both measures help to better protect consumers and create a level playing field for industry. The DFPI began accepting applications for licensure September 1, 2021. You can reach the licensing team by emailing DCLA.Inquiries@dfpi.ca.gov . We can answer questions regarding the licensing process but cannot provide legal advice. Applications must be submitted via the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS). A checklist of requirements for the application is available on NMLS. Once licensed, debt collectors will not need to register under the California Consumer Financial Protection Law. The Department will allow any debt collector that submitted an application before January 1, 2023, to operate pending the approval or denial of the application.
How To Reach Us
Department of Financial Protection and Innovation Attn: Debt Collection Licensing Act
2101 Arena Boulevard
Sacramento, CA 95834
Debt Collector Licensee Voicemail: (916) 576-8623
DFPI General Inquires: (916) 327-7585
Frequently Asked Questions – Debt Collector Licensing Act (DCLA)
Below is a list of frequently asked questions on Licensing Information, Application Process, and Law and Regulation. All frequently asked questions below are subject to change. For additional information email us at: DCLA.Inquiries@dfpi.ca.gov.
What business operations constitute a “debt collector” and who is required to apply for a license?
A debt collector is “any person who, in the ordinary course of business, regularly, on the person’s own behalf or on behalf of others, engages in “debt collection”. The term includes any person who composes and sells or offers to compose and sell, forms, letters, and other collection media used or intended to be used for debt collection.” The term debt collector includes ”debt buyer”. Affiliates who engage in the business of debt collection are also required to apply for a license.
“Debt collection” means any act or practice in connection with the collection of consumer debt. A “debt buyer” means a person or entity that is regularly engaged in the business of purchasing charged-off consumer debt for collection purposes, whether it collects the debt itself, hires a third-party for collection or hires an attorney-at-law for collection litigation.
“Debt buyer” does not mean a person or entity that acquires a charged-off consumer debt incidental to the purchase of a portfolio predominantly consisting of consumer debt that has not been charged off. “Charged-off consumer debt” means a consumer debt that has been removed from a creditor’s books as an asset and treated as a loss or expense. For more definitions, including “debt collector,” “consumer debt,” “debt,” and others, please refer to Financial Code § 100002.
Who is required to submit an application?
All debt collectors and debt buyers operating in California are required to apply for a license with the Department. A license is required for the licensee’s principal place of business and cannot be transferred or assigned. Please note that a separate license is not required for each individual branch office. However, your branch offices must be registered in the NMLS.
Are there any exemptions to licensing?
There are exemptions for depository institutions such as FDIC-insured banks, credit unions, DFPI-licensed finance lenders and brokers, DFPI-licensed mortgage lenders and servicers, Department of Real Estate licensed agents, persons subject to the Karnette Rental-Purchase Act, a trustee for a nonjudicial foreclosure, and debt collections regulated under the Student Loan Servicing Act.
For additional detail of the exemptions please refer to Fin. Code § 100001(b)(1) and (c) .
What is a Conditional License?
A Conditional License is an approved license that is based on the condition that federal criminal history records checks will be performed at a later date. Applicants will receive notification through NMLS when MU2 filers need to complete the fingerprinting process. They will have 90 days to complete the process. Conditional Licenses expire when any of the following are met:
- Ninety days after the requirements of Financial Code Sections 100007, 100008, and 100009 have been satisfied.
- Upon the issuance of an unconditional license.
- Ninety days after the commissioner directs the licensee in writing to submit fingerprints for submission to the Department of Justice pursuant to Section 100008, if the licensee fails to submit a set of fingerprints for each individual described in Section 100009.
- Upon the denial, pursuant to Section 100012, of a license application.
When will I get my license number?
The license number will be sent via email and through NMLS when the application is approved. For purposes of including California debt collector license numbers when contacting or communicating with debtors as required under Civil Code section 1788.11, an applicant who appears on the Pending Applicants list, may indicate “license number pending” or similar verbiage until a license is approved or denied.
I just received approval of a license, now what?
In general, a licensee’s duties can be found in Fin. Code §§ 100018 – 100022 of the Debt Collection Licensing Act (Fin. Code § 100000 et seq.) (DCLA). Any change in the information you originally provided in your application (MU1, MU2, or MU3) should be updated in NMLS promptly as they occur.
For information regarding pending regulations please visit: Laws and Regulations – Debt Collection Licensing Act. You are responsible for complying with the law, including but not limited to the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (Fin. Code § 90000 et seq.) (CCFPL) and the DCLA.
Where do I find the application?
The application is completed electronically on the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System and Registry (NMLS). Instructions for filing on online application can be found here.
Is an account required in NMLS?
Before you can file a debt collector application in NMLS, you must have a “Company Account” in NMLS.
If you do not have a Company Account in NMLS yet, you can request the Company Account request form here.
If you already have a Company Account in NMLS, you can find the instructions to file the application by using the CA-DFPI Debt Collection License New Application Checklist. The checklist has general information about the license, fees, required documents you need to upload to NMLS with the application, and required documents you may need to submit outside of NMLS.
Does the application cost anything? If so, how much?
There is an application fee of $350 and an investigation fee of $150 per applicant. Fees will need to be paid through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System and Registry (NMLS) for transmission to the Commissioner. The $350 application will be invoiced through NMLS after the application is submitted. The NMLS fees for obtaining credit reports, annual processing fees, and any other NMLS fees shall be paid by applicants and licensees to NMLS through NMLS. Fees are not refundable.
You may apply for a single license that includes all your affiliates engaged in the business of debt collection and pay a single application fee of $350. However, each affiliate will still need to pay the investigation fee of $150 and complete a New Company application (Form MU1).
What is the fingerprinting process?
Once an application is filed, detailed fingerprinting instructions for individuals in and outside of California will be provided to the Primary Company Contact. Due to the volume of applications expected to be filed, you can anticipate an extended period of time before you receive the instruction email. The fingerprinting process is considered part of the review process for the application. It is not part of the initial submission requirement.
Note: Fingerprinting has been suspended until further notice. Applicants will be granted conditional licenses and asked to provide fingerprints at a later date.
Can I submit the application in paper form?
No. The Commissioner requires applicants to file electronically through the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS). In addition, the Commissioner may require fees, supporting documents, changes of address, amendments or modifications thereto, and any other information, to be submitted by applicants and licensees through NMLS.
The Commissioner has designated NMLS to receive and store filings, obtain credit reports, and collect related fees and assessments from applicants and licensees on behalf of the Commissioner. All applications, amendments, surety bonds, notices, related filings, supporting documents, renewals, authorizations, assessments, and fees required to be filed with the Commissioner will need to be filed electronically with and transmitted through NMLS.
How long is the application review process?
Per legislation, all debt collectors needed to apply for a license prior to January 1, 2023, to continue to operate in California. That means we will have a large volume of applications to review. The licensing team is diligently working to review them as quickly as possible; however, the process is anticipated to take place through 2023. Do not be concerned if we do not contact you regarding your application for an extended period of time.
When does the status of my application change in NMLS?
All applications default to “Pending-Incomplete” when submitted. Your application will stay in this status until it has been assigned and is being reviewed by the licensing team. At that time, the status will change to “Pending-Review”, or it may change to “Pending-Deficient” if we need additional information from you to complete the review process.
Due to the volume of applications expected to be filed, you can anticipate an extended period of time before the status of your application changes. Once the application is approved, the status will change to “Approved – Conditional”.
Laws and Regulations
What Division of the Financial Code contains the Debt Collection Licensing Act?
The Debt Collection Licensing Act is in Division 25 sections 100000 – 100025. You can find the financial code here.
Where can I find the Debt Collection Regulations?
You can link to the regulation through the DFPI website’s Laws and Regulations page.
What are the consequences for not applying for a license?
For a list of actions that may be taken against a person for violations of Civil Code sections 1788 et seq. or 1788.50 et seq. regardless of licensure, please refer to Fin. Code § 100005.
What else could happen if a debt collector violates the law?
The Commissioner may issue a desist and refrain order to keep a company or individual from engaging in the business as a debt collector without a license or from violating the DCLA or the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act or Civ. Code § 1788.50 et seq. The Commissioner may also order the person or licensee to pay ancillary relief, including but not limited to refunds, restitution, disgorgement, and payment of damages on behalf of a person injured by the conduct or practices constituting the violation.
Under the CCFPL, it is unlawful for a covered person or service provider, which includes debt collectors and debt buyers, to engage in any unlawful, unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice with respect to consumer financial products or services, offer or provide to a consumer any financial product or service not in conformity with any consumer financial law or otherwise commit any act or omission in violation of a consumer financial law, or fail or refuse, as required by a consumer financial law or any rule or order issued by the Department, to do any of the following: (A) permit the Department access to or copying of records; (B) establish or maintain records; or (C) make reports or provide information to the Department.
A covered person or service provider shall not terminate or in any other way discriminate against any or any authorized representative of covered employees by reason of the fact that they (1) filed a proceeding under any consumer financial law or (2) objected to or refused to participate in any activity, policy, or practice they believed to be in violation of any law, rule, or order.
If a person violates the CCFPL, rule, or final order or condition imposed in writing by the Department, the Commissioner may bring a civil action in superior court for a preliminary or permanent injunction, restraining order, writ of mandate, or order appointing a receiver.
If a person engages, has engaged, or proposes to engage in any activity prohibited by Financial Code sections 90003 or 90004, or an activity that violates a law, rule, order, or any condition imposed in writing by the Department, the Department may issue a desist and refrain order including a claim for ancillary relief as set forth in Financial Code section 90012(b).