Consumers Reported 69,204 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Violations. FTC Responds With One (1) Lawsuit

Consumers have filed over 69,000 complaints against scummy debt collectors for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, prompting the FTC to rush to our collective defense by taking action against three debt collectors who showed a “culture of harassing the debtors from which they collect.” Two debt collectors settled and one went to court. Still, when you receive over 69,000 complaints—and these are from the people who know to complain to the FTC—it’s reasonable to assume that more than three collectors encourage a culture of harassment. More harrowing revelations from the FTC’s annual report to Congress, after the jump.

  • 40.3%, 27,929 consumers, complained of debt collectors attempting to collect more than they were owed
  • 3.4%, 2,387 consumers, complained that collectors were attempting to collect interest, fees, or expenses that were not owed, such as collection fees, late fees and court costs
  • 21.2% or 14,656 consumers complained of harassment from repeated or continuous calls
  • 22.1% or 15,314 consumers complained of debt collectors making calls to employers, friends and family repeatedly in an attempt to allegedly gather information to assist them in collecting the debt
  • 11.5% of the FDCPA complaints or 7,967 consumers complained of being harassed with collectors using obscene, profane or otherwise abusive language
  • 11.4% or 7,913 consumers complained that they were threatened with a lawsuit or some other legal action that the debt collector could not or did not intend to take, such as seizure of property or arrest.

Congress requires the FTC to furnish a new report every year. Hopefully when they report back in March, the new FTC data will reassure us that they are protecting our rights and cracking down on violators. Until then, keep reporting FDCPA violations to the FTC at: 1-877-FTC-HELP.

FTC publishes its Annual Report on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act [Alabama Consumer Law Blog]
Federal Trade Commission Annual Report 2007: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (PDF) [FTC]
(Photo: scoobymoo)

Comments

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  1. emax4 says:

    1 down, 69,203 to go…

  2. timmus says:

    Kudos, Consumerist! This is good journalism here. I myself have been incensed at the lack of teeth among the FTC and state agencies, and it’s nice to see it quantified. The watchdogs suck and their Milk Bones need to be taken away.

  3. That70sHeidi says:

    I suddenly had a ghost debt appear from my past and I’m struggling with it now. Comcast was covered in my bankruptcy over a year ago, but suddenly their collection agency is on me again (conveniently after I opened my first credit card in several years!). I tried filing an online complaint with one credit bureau but they are ALLOWING this “unpaid” on my credit report still (my lawyer is getting involved). I’m now going to send a letter to another bureau to get it off THEIR records. If Comcast never dinged my credit report back when this was going on, AND the debt is GONE, there is no reason for this collection agency to ever, ever think, write, or speak to me.

    I even talked to them on the phone when I rec’d the first notice in the mail. I gave them my bankruptcy number, my filing date, all that. And they IGNORED IT!

    Can I file a complaint with the FTC on this company??

  4. shadow735 says:

    hell yeah they are in violation of your bky discharge. You could get some money for this especially if you have copies of the letters you sent and they continued to perster you for the discharged debt.

  5. goller321 says:

    This is what happens when you let the fox guard the hen house. God I can’t wait until Bush is out of office. I can only hope that the President will be more citizen friendly. OBama or McCain would be my choice.

  6. econobiker says:

    Well, with that big ol’ bankruptcy reform bill passed, what, last year or two years ago, there shouldn’t be any reason for the debt collectors to be out of control. That bill should have “leveled” the corporate playing field to get rid of those “deadbeats who worked the system” and took advantage of poor, pitifull mega banking corporations…

  7. Munsoned says:

    This is pathetic. Congress and the FTC are both full of FAIL!

  8. Clay_in_TX says:

    What?? You mean the government ISN’T protecting us???

    Wow! Just wait until we have socialized medicine under the “Clinton Wage Garnishment Health Care Plan”.

  9. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @clay_in_tx: I don’t see what the FDCPA has to do with universal health care. Can we save the unrelated politics snark for Wonkette?

  10. KIRZEN2007 says:

    @CumaeanSibyl:

    This is as much about government policy as it is about consumers or debt, the fact is that the FTC is a government organization that’s not doing its job… Granted, the health care stuff is an unnecessary cheap shot (especially since its not even a policy, just Clinton cutting the throat of her own campaign).

  11. SacraBos says:

    @KIRZEN2007: I agree. One of the “big” lies is – “I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” Yet, we irrationally want to be taxed to support a new/curernt government agency so they will “fix” it.

  12. Trick says:

    Any any scumbag collector reading this will chuckle as he or she makes the next harassing phone call. Why worry, the statistics show it is cheaper to risk FTC intervention than actually playing by the rules.

  13. goller321 says:

    @Trick: Of course there is always person remediation. If the government won’t do it, sue them yourself and make some cash…

  14. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @KIRZEN2007: That’s what I meant, really. This is a political issue to be sure, but health care has exactly zero to do with it.

    For that matter, until we’ve managed to ask the major candidates what their position is on abuse of the FDCPA, they don’t really matter to the discussion either. Somebody should do some good consumer questions for the next YouTube debate if they’re having one.

  15. ShortBus says:

    Why would you complain to the FTC when you can sue in small claims court and pick up an easy $1,000 per violation? I currently gearing up to do just that to a junk debt buyer who flat out ignores every certified letter I send them. Plus I’m going to ding them for at least one (possibly two) willful FCRA violations, also $1,000 a pop.

  16. solidstate42 says:

    @thats70heidi
    Please save all correspondence. The statute allows for statutory damages up to $1000. If you live in California as well, you may also be able to file a suit under the Rosenthal Act. I deal with these kinds of cases routinely and some companies will never learn.

  17. Michael Belisle says:

    @ShortBus: Why not file a complaint with the FTC in addition to suing? You know, just so it’s added to the tally.

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    Hope the “our government is ALWAYS the problem” types will forthwith swear to never take advantage of ANY gov’t service, program or service. And work in an industry that is completely severed from gov’t involvement.

    Or cheerfully admit they’re bleeding, blowhard hypocrites. Either/or.

  19. mac-phisto says:

    to be fair, the ftc is primarily a record-keeping operation – they aren’t really staffed to respond to thousands & thousands of complaints. they should really expand the doj’s fraud division, or perhaps create a new division that investigates complaints made thru the ftc & prosecutes accordingly.

    what really pisses me off is the collectors’ ability to use the CRBs for what constitutes blackmail. & the CRBs stand back & say they have no part in it – they simply aggregate what their members report. that’s bullshit! a collector buys my account & enough info to pull a report on me (name, ssn & maybe dl#). in seconds, they have my employment history, aliases, addresses, phone #s – enough info to pretext & otherwise wreak havoc on my life & my finances.

  20. miburo says:

    Hey guys.. a company I’m sure I paid off awhile ago (but currently searching through my old documents to find the sign off letter) started sending me collection notices again. Not only that! they put my account number and the amount I owe on the OUTSIDE of the letter. Is that legal?

  21. bhall03 says:

    Maybe the three the FTC went after account for 30,000 to 60,000 of the complaints???

  22. theblackdog says:

    Is it wrong that I kind of like how the debt collection agencies resell debts and that restarts the clock on the credit report because will bite my ex in the ass? He still thinks that he can just let his unpaid credit cards drop off of his report and that will fix everything.

    He’s in for a rude awakening.

  23. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @miburo: I doubt it.

  24. hapless says:

    @trai_dep: The problem is that it is not possible to avoid government interference in your life and business. There aren’t any industries that are “completely severed from govt involvement.”

    That is the problem that us “types” cannot ignore.

  25. darkened says:

    @That70sHeidi: Sue sue sue sue. That debt is not legal to collect they are breaking the law, from what it sounds like you already have a lawyer (I’m assuming your bankruptcy lawyer) Either ask him to get involved in filing the suit for you or file it in small claims court.

    The only way these terrible companies will learn is to be sued so much they will stop breaking the law in suit of profit because it costs them more than to disobey it. Where now they can violate it almost without repercussion.

  26. mac-phisto says:

    @darkened: yeah, but they also have an advantage that we don’t – the resolve & recorporate shuffle. a debt collector gets sued enough, they can fold the operation & set up under a new name. a smart owner would operate multiple collection agencies in tandem so they could liquidate with ease.

    ironic how they can kill off their old debts, but we can’t.

  27. Unnamed Source says:

    Time for an EECB to both Houses of Congress with the details the Consumerist provides here. The FTC needs to stop catering to the very industries, and their illegal acts, it’s supposed to be protecting us, the American public, from.

  28. Noah_Bodie says:

    FTC gets more than 674K complaints a year, and has a staff of only about 1,200

    [www.ftc.gov]
    [en.wikipedia.org]

    There’s only so much they can do, about any subject. However, when just over 10% of ALL complaints are about one lil’ industry, it’s long since time for Congress to act.

    I can point to the Bush administration for the failed Bankruptcy Reform Act, but that has failed to produce any substantive change. Oh, a lot of people have been buffaloed into believing “You can’t file BK anymore because of Bush”. Nonsense. Talk with a BK lawyer. High 90th percentile of clients who could file for BK7 before BARF can still file a BK7 after BARF. The means testing has only proven what some consumer advocates were already saying. People file BK7 not to escape a luxurious and carefree spending spree, but to get out from under debt brought on by divorce, medical bills, job loss, or some combination thereof.

    Congress and Presidents from both parties have been complicit in allowing the credit and collections industry to lord over consumers, and it’s been going on for a long, long, long time. Reforms pass now and again, but serious reform has yet to occur.

  29. Noah_Bodie says:

    I may have gone too easy on the collections industry.

    [www.ftc.gov]

    “Last year, the Commission received 348,157 complaints directly from consumers about all industries, nearly identical to the 348,567 complaints received in 2005. These numbers do not include complaints about identity theft or violations of the Commission’s Do Not Call Registry. The number of FDCPA complaints we received increased to 69,204 in 2006, from 66,672 in 2005, a 3.8% increase.”

    69K outta 348K means 19.9% of all complaints to the FTC from consumers are FDCPA complaints–not counting Do Not Call and ID theft complaints.

    This is an industry that is so outta control, one is practically deprived of speech when thinking about it.