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FTC releases Fair Debt Collection Practices Act report

Mar 31, 2011 Kyle Duncan

The Federal Trade Commission recently unveiled its annual Fair Debt Collection Practices Act report to Congress, summarizing the top consumer complaints received in 2010. The number of complaints received by the FTC regarding third-party debt collection and in-house creditors was higher than the year before, totaling 140,036. The number made up 27 percent of all complaints and was higher than in 2009, when complaints regarding debt collectors made up 22.8 percent of the total. In gathering information, the FTC broke down the complaints into separate categories. The FTC's report found that 49.7 percent of those filing complaints said they had been harassed by debt collectors, 30.4 said that they had been asked to pay more than they actually owed, 29.8 percent of people complained that they hadn't been sent necessary notices and 25.3 percent said they had been threatened. In addition, 22.8 percent said that the person contacting them had failed to identify themselves as a debt collector, 21.8 percent complained about collectors communicating with third parties, 15.6 percent said their place of employment had been contacted and 10.5 percent said that disputed debts had not been verified. "Hundreds of thousands of consumers contact the FTC every year about consumer protection issues," the FTC said in its release. " With respect to debt collection, the FTC receives both consumer inquiries and complaints. The FTC’s Consumer Response Center (CRC) makes every effort to distinguish between these two categories of contacts. The data presented here include only consumer contacts that the CRC has identified as complaints. When this report references 'complaints,' it includes only complaints that consumers have filed directly with the FTC, as opposed to any other body." The FTC went on to say that it was in the process of launching investigations into certain debt collectors to see if they had violated the law. It also announced that it had reached a settlement with West Asset Management, which resulted in a $2.8 million civil penalty. In response to the FTC report, many groups in the debt collection field came out with statements of their own. The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals said in a statement that the FTC report did not take into account the economic conditions that existed in the United States, which had created more credit card defaults than in previous years.