While stagnant unemployment rates have led many consumers to fall into debt, their ability to pay has diminished as the economy worsens, the Detroit Free Press reports.
James Angelo, co-owner of collection agency J.J. Marshall & Associates in Shelby Township, Michigan, blames the hardships on layoffs, declining incomes and the state's dwindling population. "In this environment, there are collectors who realize that many people just can't pay ... and the only way to collect is to be flexible with payment plans or settlements," Gerri Detweiler, co-author of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights, explains to the news source. However, many agencies remain aggressive, resulting in record numbers of complaints. USA Today reports the number of annual grievances filed against debt collectors rose from nearly 105,000 in 2008 to more than 140,000 in 2010, according to Federal Trade Commission statistics. In order to avoid this, Angelo makes his employees sign a pledge that was put together by the American Collectors Association International Education Foundation, which stresses that agencies treat debtors with dignity and respect. Angelo also warns his employees to treat each phone call as if it's being recorded in order to create optimal customer service.