Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Cohen and Bonamici See Their Amendment Prohibiting Collection of ‘Zombie Debt’ Pass the House

May 13, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, an amendment prohibiting the collection of ‘zombie debt’ passed the House, as part of H.R. 2547, the Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act. The amendment was offered by Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Steve Cohen and Suzanne Bonamici.

Most debts have a statute of limitations, but some predatory lenders still seek payment on these time-barred debts - deliberately attempting to deceive vulnerable individuals.  This amendment makes that harassment illegal.

“Debt collectors are preying on seniors and other consumers - trying to harass them into paying a debt that they no longer legally owe,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez in a statement. “Some victims have seen their credit scores lowered, while others missed work to attend court hearings and paid exorbitant legal fees to end the harassment.  Our amendment ends this nightmare and honors the intent of our existing laws on zombie debt.”

“Predatory debt collection is an unacceptable practice that takes advantage of our communities’ neediest. I’m proud to join my colleagues in passing the Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act, and I’m pleased my amendment prohibiting debt collectors from using abusive tactics to collect expired debts was included. This addition will protect consumers and empower them to get on with their lives, because no one’s life should be interrupted by debt collectors aggressively trying to collect already-expired debt,” said Rep. Steve Cohen in a statement.

Predatory debt collectors have been known to go to extraordinarily deceptive lengths to seek payment on time-barred debts. According to public comments collected by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,  some lenders have harassed family members and employers, initiated legal proceedings and even falsified documents --- all to seek repayment of debt that is no longer owed.  The victims had often made good-faith efforts for years to pay back extraordinary medical debt or debt accumulated by former partners, only to face undue harassment that deteriorated their mental health and further weakened their financial security. 

The full amendment can be viewed here.