by Jeff Sovern
Advocates for some positions sometimes block the federal government from researching or supporting research on issues. For example, supporters of gun rights have long had the votes to prevent the government from obtaining data about gun safety. See, e.g., Newsweek's report titled THE GOVERNMENT WON'T FUND RESEARCH ON GUN VIOLENCE BECAUSE OF NRA LOBBYING. What appears to be a similar ethos made headlines recently when it was reported that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention had barred the use of words like ''evidence-based" and "science-based" in budget documents. Now that spirit may have come to the CFPB. Earlier in the year, the CFPB had sought to conduct a survey of consumers on debt collection notices. The Dodd-Frank Act gave the CFPB the power to issue regulations interpreting and implementing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, something no other agency has been able to do, and as the statute is four decades old, has rarely been updated, and predates modern communications methods such as cell phones, emails, texts, or even fax machines, while referring to telegrams, it is badly in need of corresponding regulations. One area which particularly needs work is debt collection notices, and the CFPB survey would surely have helped determine how to make those notices effective. A survey I co-authored found serious problems with a widely-used debt collection notice, and the Bureau could have tested other notices to see how to make them more useful to consumers. But the new leadership at the CFPB has withdrawn the Bureau's proposed survey. I very much hope that this is merely a pause in the Bureau's effort to learn about debt collection notices, and that the Bureau later conducts the survey. That may in fact be what happens because the withdrawal notice reports that the "Bureau leadership would like to reconsider the information collection in connection with its review of the ongoing related rulemaking." But I fear that this is another example of how evidence-based lawmaking is no longer in vogue and that the pause will never end.