World’s Largest Debt Collector To Pay $3.2 Million Penalty For Harassing Consumers

egsIt’s highly possible you’ve never heard of Expert Global Solutions, but it’s the largest debt-collection operation in the world. It also is the subject of a recent Federal Trade Commission complaint alleging that the company and its subsidiaries violated federal law by harassing consumers.

You may remember this list of 23 things that debt collectors are forbidden from doing. According to the FTC, Expert Global — through subsidiaries ALW Sourcing, NCO Financial Systems, and Transworld Systems — disregarded that list and, among other alleged violations, called consumers multiple times per day, even after being asked to stop, called early in the morning or late at night, called consumers’ workplaces even when told that the employers prohibited such calls, and left phone messages that disclosed the debtor’s name, and the existence of the debt, to third parties.

In addition to these allegations, the FTC claims that collectors for Expert Global would continue collection efforts without verifying the debt, even after consumers said they did not owe it.

The company will pay $3.2 million to settle these charges, the FTC’s largest ever action against a third-party debt collector. Of course, when you consider that Expert Global took in at least $1.2 billion last year, the penalty is a pittance. To put it into real-world money, this would be like assessing a $133 parking ticket to a person making $50,000 year; enough to make him grumble about it, but perhaps not enough to stop him from doing it again.

There are of course non-financial stipulations to the settlement. Expert Global must stop violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the FTC Act by falsely representing that it will not call a number to collect a debt, or by harassing, oppressing, or abusing a consumer while attempting to collect a debt.

Starting one year after the settlement goes into effect, the company must also record at least 75% of its debt collection calls and retain the recordings for 90 days after they are made.

Additionally, if a consumer disputes the validity or the amount of an alleged debt, Expert Global must either close the account and end collection efforts, or suspend collection until it has conducted an investigation and verified that its information about the debt is accurate and complete.