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‘Modernizing’ debt collection

By Marcie Geffner · Bankrate.com
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Posted: 10 am ET

The Association of Credit and Collections Professionals, known as ACA International, has introduced a "blueprint" of policy initiatives that the group says would update the debt collection industry's antiquated practices. Consumers who've missed one or more credit card payments may be interested.

A key goal, mentioned repeatedly in the group's press statement, is the removal of what the group calls "unnecessary impediments to effective, straightforward communications between consumers and debt collectors."

That sounds nice, but in this context, "effective communication" seems to be less about clarity and conciseness and more about debt collectors' freer access to use cellphone calls, email and text messages to pursue payments.

The targets of the blueprint are the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Telephone Consumer Protection Act, two federal laws that are supposed to protect people from harassment. The group wants these laws changed to allow debt collectors to:

  • Call consumers' cellphones even when those calls result in per-minute charges paid by the consumers.
  • Send email and text messages to consumers without privacy concerns even if a third party might have access to those communications.
  • Use autodialers and prerecorded messages to call consumers' cellphones.

And on it goes to notification, verification, documentation, litigation and more.

Some of the ideas have merit, and the group makes some good arguments as to why the laws should be updated.

Still, the Federal Trade Commission last year logged 140,036 complaints about debt collection practices, more than any other industry in the country. ACA International says at least of some of those were inquiries, not gripes.

But again, 140,000? That's a lot of people who went to the trouble to contact a federal agency about how they'd been treated -- or mistreated, depending on your point of view -- by this one industry.

If debt collectors want greater leeway to contact consumers, shouldn't they first do a better job at "effective communication" in the old-fashioned ways?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau might have an answer.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff

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6 Comments
T l Madigan
July 24, 2011 at 4:20 am

The ACA was active in working with Congress on the passage of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Third party collection agencies work on commission. They only make momey when they collect money. Any collector harrassing people / wong numbers etc. is not making money. If someone is harrassing you, First complain to the owner of the agency, Second file a formal compaint with Federal Trade Commission. Don't complain to your family, step up and take action. I do not agree with all of the ACA's new ideas,but if you the bill why are you hiding from them?
The collector's option is a lawsuit against you for the client.
I was a third pary bill collector for Thiry year. I always used my own name and hid my address. I can not say the same of every one I called.The bottom line is do you have the ability to pay for services or goods that you already received? If so Why did you stop paying legally a binding debt?

T l Madigan
July 24, 2011 at 4:18 am

The ACA was active in working with Congress on the passage of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Third party collection agencies work on commission. They only make momey when they collect money. Any collector harrassing people / wong numbers etc. is not making money. If someone is harrassing you, First complain to the owner of the agency, Second file a formal compaint with Federal Trade Commission. Don't complain to your family, step up and take action. I do not agree with all of the ACA's new ideas,but if you the bill why are you hiding from them?
The collector's option is a lawsuit against you for the client.
I was a third pary bill collector for Thiry year. I always used my own name and hid my address. I can not say the same of every one I called.The bottom line is do you have the ability to pay for services or goods that you already received? If so Why did you stop paying legally binding debt?

Responsibility Patrol
June 20, 2011 at 12:33 pm

There's not much buzz on this topic comments wise, so this isn't directed at the only commenter above.

Am I literally the ONLY person who believes in personal responsibility anymore? Because America(ns) sure don't. Everyone wants to b*tch and moan about "Boo hoo i get collection calls every day, and some to my cell phone and I have to pay minutes, whe whe, boo hoo hoo..." Well, that sounds pitiful and all but did anyone ever stop to think...if you would simply PAY YOUR BILLS that you incurred, the calls would disappear out of nowhere! Imagine that??? Someone taking PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for THEIR own actions of driving up their debt to an unmanageable level.

This about collectors from this point of view...what if you loans someone, an acquaintance perhaps, say...$5,000 (much like a credit card company does you when they give you a Visa), and then lets say said acquaintance stop paying you back one day for 2,3,4, 6 months in a row. Who would HONESTLY not try to call and find that person as much as it takes to get their $5,000 back??? Kind of like a collector. Hmmm, shocking resemblance.

Anyone who says they wouldn't harass said person until they started paying again is basically a LIAR!

True I agree collectors calling and harassing me when it's the wrong number is annoying, but guess what, this is few and far between and certainly not the norm. So the majority of collection calls are legitimate debts NOT being paid back to the company/person who loaned you the money YOU asked for in the first place, and then decided you didn't want to pay it back on time one day...but don't want the company calling and asking you to pay them back?

Anyway, just my two cents. take it for what it's worth.

Elgog Partynipple
June 20, 2011 at 8:15 am

It has been my experience that collection agencies frequently call the wrong number. I will receive calls for months several time a day for a wrong number collection. It's not until I contact the Attorney General in my state that I can get them to stop calling me. If they were allowed to call my cell phone, I would be paying for extended calling minutes to my cell phone company to receive these collection calls even though they have a rong number.

Collection agencies don't really care if they make mistakes. I have never received an apology from a collection agency about them calling by mistake. Many times they give me the impression that they think I am lying to them, make some angry colorful comment then rudly hang up, only to call back several hours later and do it again.

Opening the barn door to this kind of activity will only exacerbate this problem. I will start suing these companies for harrasment (in my state I can recover up to $5,000 per suite). Maybe that will stop them?