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CFPB debt collection proposals
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU CONSIDERS PROPOSAL TO OVERHAUL DEBT COLLECTION MARKET
Washington, D.C. – Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) outlined proposals under consideration that would overhaul the debt collection market by capping collector contact attempts and by helping to ensure that companies collect the correct debt. Under the proposals being considered, debt collectors would be required to have more and better information about the debt before they collect. As they are collecting, companies would be required to limit communications, clearly disclose debt details, and make it easier to dispute the debt. When responding to disputes, collectors would be prohibited from continuing to pursue debt without sufficient evidence. These requirements and restrictions would follow the debt if it were sold or transferred.
“Today we are considering proposals that would drastically overhaul the debt collection market,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “This is about bringing better accuracy and accountability to a market that desperately needs it.”
The outline of the proposals under consideration can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/20160727_cfpb_Outline_of_proposals.pdf
Debt collection is a multi-billion dollar industry and affects about 70 million consumers who have debt in collection, some of whom may be wrongly contacted by debt collectors. Banks and other original creditors may collect their own debts or hire third-party debt collectors. Original creditors also often sell their consumers’ debts to debt buyers that may collect on the purchased debts or hire third-party debt collectors to recover them. It is estimated that there are more than 6,000 debt collection firms in the United States.
According to a recent CFPB study, about one-in-three consumers had been contacted by a creditor or collector trying to collect a debt within the past year. Most consumers who had been contacted reported attempts to collect payment on between two and four debts. And one-third of consumers who had been contacted about a debt in the last year reported an attempt to collect in the wrong amount.
Debt collection generates more complaints to the CFPB than any other financial product or service. The most common complaints are about collectors seeking to collect debt from the wrong consumer, for the wrong amount, or debt that could not legally be enforced. When consumers are contacted by collectors for debt they do not recognize, they often do not know what to do next. They may feel pressure to resolve the debt but do not have a clear understanding of their rights. Sometimes consumers pay a debt they don’t believe is accurate to make the collector stop contacting them. Other times, consumers spend significant time and money to dispute the debt. They may have to dig through old records to prove information to the collector or retain a lawyer.
Problems with the information that collectors receive when they are hired or they purchase debt, combined with the lack of information provided by collectors to consumers during collections, can cause substantial consumer harm. These factors also drive up costs to collectors, which hurts the industry at large. When an account is sold or placed with a new collector, the information that transfers is often only to the benefit of the collector. It usually includes how to contact the consumer and how much money they supposedly owe. The Bureau’s proposals under consideration would overhaul debt collections from when third-party collectors first examine their portfolios of debt to their last attempts to collect.
Debt Collection Protections
Today’s proposals under consideration would increase protections pertaining to third-party debt collectors and others covered by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, including many debt buyers. As part of its overhaul of the debt collection marketplace, the CFPB plans to address consumer protection issues involving first-party debt collectors and creditors on a separate track. Specifically, the new protections are aimed at ensuring that debt collectors:
Today’s outline of the proposals under consideration is in preparation for convening a Small Business Review Panel to gather feedback from small industry players, which is the next step in the rulemaking process. In addition to consulting with small business representatives, the Bureau will continue to seek input from the public, consumer groups, industry, and other stakeholders before continuing the rulemaking process. When the Bureau issues proposed regulations, the public is invited to submit written comments which will be carefully considered before final regulations are issued.
As part of the review process, the CFPB is also releasing a report, “Study of Third-Party Debt Collection Operations,” which is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/20160727_cfpb_Third_Party_Debt_Collection_Operations_Study.pdf
To date, the CFPB has taken a number of steps to improve the debt collection marketplace and study the industry. In October 2012, the CFPB issued a Larger Participant rule establishing supervisory authority over nonbank debt collectors with more than $10 million in annual receipts resulting from consumer debt collection. This covers approximately 175 debt collectors accounting for more than 60 percent of the industry’s annual receipts. The Bureau has ordered creditors and debt collectors to stop collecting on debt based on bad information, and to refund hundreds of millions of dollars for unlawful debt collection.