FTC publishes its Annual Report on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
We recently came across the Federal Trade Commission's "Annual Report 2007: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act" report. This report mainly addresses 2006 and provides two basic things: First, it provides statistical data on the number and kinds of complaints it receives from consumers alleging abusive debt collection practices. Second, it provides an update on the FTC's actions and efforts to police this industry.
After reading the report, we are not sure which is more disturbing, the number of complaints and that they are increasing (more than 69,000 in 2006 up from 66,672 in 2005) or that FTC only filed one lawsuit in 2006 after receiving more than 69,000 complaints.
We will discuss the report in more detail in later posts, but some interesting, and disturbing statistics are below:
- In 2006 the FTC received more complaints against debt collectors than against any other industry
- 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.
Under the section "Enforcement: The First Prong of the FDCPA Program" the FTC states, surprisingly without apology, that in 2006 it only filed suit against one debt collector and settled with two others. These results may be a little misleading, however, because it appears that the FTC will only sue a debt collector that they can prove has a culture of harassing the debtors from which they collect. The settlements reached were for millions of dollars and did force one large collection agency to shut down.
This does beg the question of what a consumer should do to protect his or her rights given the likelihood that the FTC will not sue on their behalf. Unfortunately, the report is silent on this issue. However, we are not.
Consumers do have options. There are lawyers all around the country, like us, who sue debt collectors on behalf of our clients for abusive debt collection practices.
If you are being called, contacted and harassed by a debt collector you do not have to put up with this. Please contact us. You do have rights against these abusive practices. We will sue the debt collector on your behalf to protect your rights.
Please stay tuned for further updates and commentary on this report.
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