Some signing services are now diversifying by offering assignments to do debt settlements or debt resolution presentations. While these appear to be just another type of assignment, they are not.
As Patrick Manning recently commented in a notary group on Facebook:
“a Debt Resolution Presentation, is an appointment where you read a script and show slides, to explain (the bare minimum) to the borrower what the Debt Resolution process is. The law office provides you all the documents, you read the script, word for word, and have the Borrower initial the slides. Then, you go through the documents, and have the Borrower sign, and you notarize where indicated. That’s the pleasant way to say it.
Here is the direct way to say it. In my un-legal opinion (I’m not a lawyer), debt resolutions conducted by a NSA, is a tiny loophole that law offices use, to circumvent the federal regulation and requirement, that they MUST have a face-to-face meeting with the client, BEFORE signing any documents, and entering into an agreement. Before I was educated, I conducted a few of these appointments. There is wording in the script, that leads the borrower to believe, that you work for the law firm. After I learned more about it, I decline each and every one. Not to mention, I think they are taking advantage of people that are in a financial crisis, and see no way out.”
He also shared a few links that have been seen several times there on Facebook when this topic came up, one from the FTC (FTC Reaches Settlement with Nationwide Debt Relief Provider) and one from Get Out of Debt (Notary Network Appears To Sell Way Around Telemarketing Sales Rules for Debt Settlement Companies).
My problem has never been the part about representing my client. Having a client means you are their representative when you communicate with their customers, to the limited degree that your contract and the specific assignment allows or requires.
My problem is also not that they may be a bad deal for the consumer, as it is not my place to substitute my judgment for theirs. If they believe that this transaction is their best option for whatever purpose they are pursuing, I have to let them proceed, unless there appears to be legal reasons to prevent it. As I don’t know their circumstances, I can not stop the signing just because I think it is a bad deal.
My problem is that the instructions from the hiring firms for these debt settlement presentations do not appear to be enough to satisfy the FTC rules about telemarketing.
Reading off a script and notarizing a few documents is not what the FTC rules about telemarketing require. The plain language of those rules seems to say that either the company can not solicit customers through telemarketing OR, if they do, then they must have a knowledgeable representative (who can answer questions and) who meets with the consumer in person before documents are signed.
As independent contractors, we can be the company representative, but we are not going to know enough about the details of their products and services to answer questions.
And, if the assignment is to read from a script and notarize a few documents, that’s not going to give us any authority to answer questions.
Unlike a standard NSA assignment, it is not enough to have a hiring firm employee or someone else available via telephone to answer questions. The in-person representative must be able to answer any questions the consumer may have so that the consumer gets a thorough understanding of what they are getting into before they proceed.
As the only in-person representative involved, we NSAs are being used to get around the FTC telemarketing rules in ways that appear to be illegal.
I agree with Patrick that these type of assignments are ethically and legally questionable at best. So, I’m not doing them.
(I say it does not seem to satisfy the rules because I am not a lawyer, so I am not authorized to give legal opinions or to accept payment for giving legal opinions or advice. You can read the rules yourself and do as you see fit. This article is simply my statement about why I find this type of assignment something to be concerned about and why I don’t do them.)
(Updated Saturday, July 21, 2018)