March 26, 2014 -- Just because you don't like something doesn't mean it's wrong. That's pretty much the response debt collectors have to last week's report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that outlines the major complaints it receives from people who have dealt with debt collectors.
ACA International, the largest trade group for the third-party debt collection industry, conducts a quarterly analysis of complaints submitted to the CFPB, and the group highlighted aspects of the data that had been left out of the CFPB's report, according to a news release from ACA.
The CFPB started collecting complaints about the debt collection industry in July 2013 and has received more than 30,000 complaints since then. ACA takes issue with whether these complaints actually involve regulatory infractions.
"While a consumer may not like something (such as being contacted about a debt or receiving multiple calls) it does not mean that the collector actually did anything wrong," the news release says. "Neither the CFPB nor the FTC investigates these complaints as to whether a complaint actually violates the law."
Collecting a consumer debt isn't an enjoyable experience for either party involved, but it's necessary, the organization said. And it's more complicated than you may think.
Collectors have to abide by the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), which prevents collectors from acknowledging the debt to anyone but the consumer or his or her attorney. As such, collectors may choose not to leave voice mails — meaning they will call back. A lot, if necessary. Once the collector gets a hold of someone, he or she must confirm the identity of the consumer, which can seem invasive, confusing and annoying.
The most common complaints from consumers about debt collectors included collectors telling consumers to repay debts they do not owe, employing aggressive communication tactics and using abusive language. The report also said collectors are threatening consumers with extreme consequences if they don't pay, like jail time or a lawsuit. While many things a collector has to do may be unpleasant for a consumer to deal with, there are plenty of things that are illegal for collectors to do or say. It's important for consumers to know their rights when dealing with collectors.
In reviewing the publicly available report from the CFPB, ACA determined that 96% of complaints are responded to within the CFPB’s established timeline for doing so, and 94% are resolved — so it seems ACA is addressing issues that arise. The group emphasized an important aspect of dealing with debt collectors: Don't ignore them, because that's not going to solve anything.
If a debt collector contacts you, you should always verify that you owe the debt before making any sort of payment. It helps to check your credit report for any inaccuracies regarding the debt, and your report will also show you who owns the debt and is the best point of contact for any questions regarding the account. If you monitor your credit scores (which you can do for free through Credit.com), you can see the effects an unresolved debt will have -- which can be all the more motivation to work toward resolving the problem as soon as you can.