ACA International Responds To CFPB's Consumer Survey Of Debt Collection Experiences

1/13/2017 7:00 AM

ACA International responded to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's findings from its survey of consumer views on debt.


ACA International, the largest trade group for the debt collection industry, today responded to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) findings from its survey of consumer views on debt.

"As an industry of professionals that work incredibly hard to keep the engine of America's credit economy running, the legitimate debt collection industry works collaboratively with millions of Americans to resolve their justly-owed debts. Unfortunately, the CFPB's so-called 'findings' are yet another thinly-veiled attempt to discredit the legitimate debt collection industry for its own political purposes," ACA International CEO Pat Morris said. "The CFPB has made a calculated move to release inflammatory but unreliable findings in an obvious attempt to strengthen its justification for its very existence in Washington. The CFPB's tactics illustrate why there is growing concern about its legitimacy."

Specifically, the CFPB proceeded with conducting the consumer survey on debt collection experiences despite its obvious flaws – flaws which ACA International called to the CFPB's attention nearly 3 years ago. The CFPB justified surveying consumers based on what the CFPB continually characterizes as the high volume of complaints received regarding debt collectors. However, the percentage of consumers who have filed any complaint with the CFPB about debt collection – regardless of whether those complaints alleged illegal conduct or merely expressed dissatisfaction with the debt collection process – is only one fivethousandth of 1% of all consumers with debts in collections. Moreover, the insights are based on 682 consumers who had interaction with a debt collector in the previous year.

This represents only one eight-millionth of 1% of the approximately 77 million Americans with debts in collections. Despite the calculated, incendiary message that the CFPB public relations machine released, the insights from the survey are not necessarily representative of consumers' actual experiences and do not come anywhere close to rising to a level that can be extrapolated across tens of millions of consumers. The CFPB recognizes this and mentions in its report that none of the findings are statistically significant – a fact that is conspicuously absent in its press release and in the CFPB Director's remarks.

Moreover, the survey that the CFPB constructed and used was flawed as it suffered from substantial negative bias, including the use of leading questions, non-neutral language, and inclusion of extraneous assumptions not germane to the questions that were asked. Again, these flaws were specifically communicated to the CFPB by ACA International prior to the survey's release. As has become the CFPB's usual course of action, however, the CFPB ignored industry's concerns and proceeded as planned. The unfortunate though obvious conclusion is that the CFPB's survey process and questions were designed to elicit a predetermined, negative response about the legitimate debt collection industry to support the bureau's predetermined, negative view of how the industry works.

Finally, despite ignoring ACA International's concerns and the unreliability of the findings, further evidence of the CFPB's intent to smear the legitimate debt collection industry can be found in the messaging it used to accompany the report. While Director Cordray acknowledged in his prepared remarks that the CFPB's statistics demonstrate that "many debt collectors and creditors respect the laws governing their industry and have good practices in place," this important point was completely overshadowed by the CFPB's decision to cherry pick the "findings" that were most negative to the industry and highlight those, despite the existence of higher percentages associated with positive findings.

"Make no mistake about it, the CFPB's survey and its findings are less about the interaction between legitimate debt collectors and consumers who owe money, and more about the dynamics and positioning of a CFPB confronting a new political landscape in Washington," Morris said.



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