CFPB Reports 88,300 Debt Collection Complaints in 2014
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has released its 2015 Annual Report, providing an in-depth look at the thousands of consumer complaints received by the Bureau in 2014.
A staggering 88,300 complaints, 35% of those made to the CFPB, related to debt collectors and, if taken as factually accurate, each and every one violates Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
The CFPB offered the following breakdown of the debt collection complaints it received in 2014:
- Continued attempts to collect debt not owed: 37%
- Communication tactics: 20%
- Disclosure about and verification of debt: 13%
- Talking or threatening an illegal action: 12%
- False statements or representation: 10%
- Improper contact or sharing of information: 7%
The most common complaint is that debt collectors were trying to collect a debt that isn’t owed by the consumer. An eye-opening 64% said that the debt wasn’t theirs in the first place, and another 26% reported that it had previously been paid-off. The remaining 10% said the debt did not belong to them because 1) it came as a result of identity theft (6%), or 2) that it was discharged in bankruptcy (4%).
The report also lists excessive or inconveniently timed telephone calls, which violates the FDCPA. In many instances, collectors currently under CFPB supervision made thousands of calls to consumers outside of the hours provided for by the FDCPA (before 8:00 am and after 9:00 pm). The Bureau also noted that some of these collectors contacted consumers excessively, “as often as 20 times within two days.”
The CFPB forwarded 45% (approximately 39,500) of the complaints to the specific collectors, with roughly 11% of these, totaling more than 4,000 complaints, going unanswered.
The CFPB says that, in 2014, consumers were awarded nearly $700 million as victims of unlawful debt collection practices, and that enforcement actions taken by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) resulted in 47 collection businesses and individuals being banned from the debt collection industry.
Since its creation in 2011, the CFPB is the only Federal agency dedicated solely to consumer financial protection. The CFPB began collecting data in the second half of 2013, making 2014 the first full-year of data regarding consumer complaints to the Bureau.
The CFPB accepts complaints and investigates business practices of debt collectors, among other entities, but does not represent individual consumers. For individuals, Congress created the FDCPA, which sets forth the rights of consumers and the rules to be followed by the debt collector.
If a violation occurs, the consumer must take action for themselves and cannot rely upon the CFPB for any help whatsoever. Fortunately, the FDCPA provides that, if a consumer retains an attorney for legal help, the law entitles the consumer to have their attorney paid all reasonable legal fees and costs. This means free legal representation under the FDCPA.
If any of the above complaints mirror your own experiences with a debt collector, or if you simply have a question about whether your rights were violated, call a qualified consumer attorney immediately to discuss the matter. You may be entitled to significant monetary compensation, as much as $1,000, plus actual damages suffered, and as stated, all attorney fees and costs.
If you wish to view the CFPB’s full annual report, visit consumerfinance.gov.