A newly released report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau underscores the need for stronger regulation of the debt collection industry.
An estimated 70 million consumers – one third of all U.S. adults – were contacted by debt collection companies over a 12-month period between early 2014 and early 2015, according to the report. In tens of millions of cases, debt collectors reportedly engaged in conduct barred by the 40-year old Federal Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). The illegal practices cited by consumers including harassing phone calls, threats, and false statements.
The survey findings suggest that during that span of time more than 37 million Americans experienced at least one collection effort that was wrong in at least one way: the amount sought was incorrect, the debt was not owed, or it was owed by someone other than the person contacted.
Among the other findings:
- One in four consumers said they had felt threatened by the debt collector who had contacted them most recently.
- Nearly 40 percent of consumers reported that a debt collector had attempted contact four or more times a week.
- More than one third of consumers reported being contacted between 9 pm and 8 am.
- Three in four consumers said that debt collectors had failed to honor a request to cease contact.
Debt collection continues to be the No. 1 topic of complaint, accounting for more than 85,000 of the complaints received by the Consumer Bureau in 2015. The CFPB is currently in the process of crafting new regulations for debt collectors. The next step in the process will be the release of a Proposed Rule, which will then be open for public comment.