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Debt collection agencies must act within the law

May 26, 2011 Mike Garretson

The debt collection field is one of the country's fast-growing industries, with more and more people unable to pay bills on time, leaving companies to pursue the money they are owed. Nothing can be more frustrating for a business owner than having to chase a person down who owes them money. And while the companies that are owed money have every right to pursue the debt by hiring a third-party agency, they must be sure to choose a qualified agency to perform the task. In recent testimony before Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, debt collection industry insider Bill Bartmann said that he wanted to make sure that those working in the sector were not giving others who work within the law a bad name. He is currently on a 50-state tour, entitled "Stop These Criminals," which seeks to hold those who violate the law accountable and expose nefarious methods. "I'm not afraid to pick a fight with abuse in this $40 billion industry even if I'm all alone," said Bartmann, president and CEO of CFS II. "My goal is to shine light on abuse in this barbaric and out-of-control business. I've been a debt collector for decades, so I'm just the guy to do it." So far, Bartmann has given similar presentations to attorneys general in 12 states as well as officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, members of Congress, and officials from the Federal Trade Commission. "Unfortunately, the collections industry is overrun with bad players who trick, threaten and abuse Americans," said Bartmann. "Consumers go to jail over less than $100... As an industry insider, I’ve seen clear patterns of abusive behavior by other bill collectors and I know how to stop them." While the majority of those in the debt collection agency work within the law, there are some that have given the industry a bad name. In one recently settled case, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced that he had reached an agreement with Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery to resolve allegations of unfair debt collection practices. Schmidt said that the settlement would affect 19,903 former customers in the state who had filed complaints against the companies.