CFPB issues its 3rd annual report on debt collection

The Consumer Finanical Protection Bureau today issued its third annual report on oversight of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Among other things, the report provides an overview of debt-collection complaints the agency has received from consumers. The report:

(1) provides background on the debt collection market; (2) summarizes the Bureau’s
consumer response function and the number and types of consumer complaints about debt
collection that the Bureau and the FTC received in 2013; (3) describes the Bureau’s debt
collection supervision program; (4) presents developments in the Bureau’s and FTC’s law
enforcement and advocacy programs; (5) discusses the Bureau’s and FTC’s education and
outreach initiatives; and (6) discusses the Bureau’s[Advance Notice of Proposed Rulingmaking on debt collection practices], as well as additional Bureau and FTC research and policy initiatives.

Reproduced after the jump is the agency's synopsis of consumer debt-collection complaints (taken from the press release that accompanied the report).

Consumer Complaints

The Bureau began accepting debt collection complaints in July 2013. These complaints quickly became the largest source of complaints each month. The Bureau received 30,300 debt collection complaints between July and December 2013. Companies have already responded to about 82 percent of the complaints the Bureau has sent to them for a response in that time frame. The top three complaints were about:

 ·         Collectors hounding consumers about a debt they do not owe: More than one-third of the complaints the CFPB handled were about a debt collector continually attempting to collect a debt that the consumer does not believe is owed. Of these complaints, almost two-thirds of consumers report that the debt is not theirs, while others report that the debt was paid, was the result of identity theft, or was discharged in bankruptcy.

·         Aggressive communication tactics used by debt collectors: Nearly a quarter of the complaints received by the Bureau were about debt collectors using inappropriate communication tactics. More than half of those complaints cite frequent or repeated calls from a collector and often the collector is calling the wrong phone number. Consumers also complain about debt collectors calling their places of employment or collectors using obscene, profane, or abusive language.

·         Taking or threatening an illegal action: About 14 percent of consumers report that a company is taking or threatening an illegal action. Most of these complaints are about threats to arrest or jail consumers if they do not pay. Other complaints relate to collectors threating to sue or attempting to seize property.