ACA Releases New White Paper Reviewing Debt Collection Complaints Submitted to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s Complaint Database in Q1 and Q2 2018

The complaint portal fails to differentiate between actual violations of law and a consumer’s displeasure with being contacted by a debt collector as well as properly contextualize the number of complaints the bureau receives.

11/6/2018 11:30 AM

BCFPNewsAdvocacy
ACA Releases New White Paper Reviewing Debt Collection Complaints Submitted to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s Complaint Database in Q1 and Q2 2018

ACA International has released a new white paper, “A Review of Debt Collection Complaints Submitted to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s Complaint Database in the First Half of 2018,” analyzing the publicly available complaints submitted to the BCFP consumer complaint database in in the first half of 2018.

In the white paper, ACA asserts that the BCFP fails to contextualize the number of complaints lodged with the BCFP within the larger context of the debt collection industry.  For example, ACA’s analysis shows the total number of debt collection complaints received by the BCFP represents an incredibly small number of consumers (0.006%) who had contact with the debt collection industry during 2018 and are remarkably consistent with other financial services industries. Further, the complaints account for only .04% of all Americans estimated to have a debt in collection.

Additionally, while debt collection was the second most complained about product, it accounted for only 21% of complaints submitted to the BCFP. Furthermore, the leading complaint category, Credit reporting, credit repair services, or other personal consumer reports, accounted for 42% of all complaints and received 68% more complaints than debt collection.

As ACA has consistently noted, the BCFP very broadly defines a “complaint” as “submissions that express dissatisfaction with, or communicate suspicion of wrongful conduct by, an identifiable entity related to a consumer’s personal experience with a financial product or service.” As such the complaint portal fails to differentiate between actual violations of law and simple displeasure with being contacted by a debt collector.

For example, it appears as though the response option called after sent written cease of communication had been changed to the new option of you told them to stop contacting you, but they keep trying. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are required to cease most communications upon receiving a written request from the consumer. By making this change to the complaint response options, the BCFP is implying harassing behavior on the part of debt collectors while de-emphasizing their adherence to the regulations that govern the debt collection industry. 

It is also important to note that the BCFP does not verify the complaints that it receives from consumers for accuracy. As such, these practices can artificially inflate the number of debt collection complaints, yet the BCFP continues to publicly tout its consumer complaint data and uses the raw number of debt collection complaints to imply evidence of widespread industry harm.  

Finally, those response options that measure the most negative stereotypes about the debt collection industry, such as harassment or illegal practices, were the categories consumers selected the least and represent an exceptionally small number of responses. These data suggest that consumers are not complaining about harassing or harsh debt collection practices and that the majority of debt collectors are adhering to legal requirements and ethical guidelines.

View the latest white paper as far as archived research through ACA International’s BCFP Resource Center as well as the Advocacy Resource Center.

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