ACA International, the association representing collection and credit professionals, responded Wednesday to the Federal Trade Commission's report detailing consumer complaints.

The FTC's Sentinel Network report released Tuesday (see story) listed complaints about identity theft and debt collections as the top two categories in 2011. ACA officials believe that reports paints an inaccurate portrait of complaints against the third-party collection industry.

"We take consumer complaints seriously and agree on the significant importance of protecting consumers against businesses that engage in deceptive, unfair or abusive practices,” says ACA CEO Pat Morris. “However, the FTC’s report doesn’t explain several relevant underlying factors contributing to the increase in the number complaints against the third-party debt collection industry.” 

  • FTC complaints do not necessarily equal bad behavior.  While the FTC simply tallies consumer complaints the agency admittedly does so without investigation into whether the complaint is actually illegal or a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. It therefore cannot be assumed that all complaints equate to actual bad behavior. 

  • More debt being collected = more contacts = more complaints.  The significant increase in volume of delinquent or defaulted debt during America’s current recession is prompting more consumer contact than ever before.  Today, more than one billion consumer contacts are made each year in America to collect health care, retail, credit card, student loan, government and other debt. 
  • New technology has made it easier for consumers to submit complaints. Consumers now have more opportunities to file FTC complaints online or with smartphone applications that make the process far easier than ever before to record a complaint for any reason. Since 2001, overall FTC complaints for all industries has risen from 325,000 complaints to 1.8 million complaints overall.
  • Lack of consumer awareness about debt collection. ACA is committed to helping consumers find useful information and resources at Questions are answered by debt collection experts. Visitors are not asked to register, provide any personal information, or pay for anything. 
  • Consumers aren’t getting their complaints resolved.  Consumers can report complaints to the FTC, but when they don’t have the opportunity to get them resolved it can generate repeat complaints.  Debt collectors want to work with consumers to resolve complaints. According to the Better Business Bureau, debt collectors resolve 84 percent of the complaints they received, which is significantly higher than other industries.  

According to Morris, third-party collection is essential to the national and state economies, which are built on the foundation that those who provide credit, goods and services expect to be repaid.
“Recovering these assets helps businesses survive, prevents layoffs, keeps cost down and ensures that credit, goods and services are available to consumers.”

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