A new study of Federal Trade Commission complaint logs based on an analysis of all collected data from 2011 shows that the credit and collection industry is performing at a "very high service level based on the percentage of complaints", according to DBA International, the association of debt buyers.

DBA conducted the analysis and presented its findings to attendees at its recent executive retreat.


Members of the DBA's Board of Directors obtained the 2011 listing of the 178,640 complaints filed with the FTC by filing a Freedom of Information Act request. Board members then sorted, reviewed and analyzed the complaints.

DBA identified 54,738 unique entities named in the complaints. The association manually reviewed and reclassified known names based on collective experience and knowledge of the industry. DBA also aggregated companies with their known subsidiaries and added any partial name to a clearly identifiable known company title, then created a  "fictitious" category that included complaints naming a federal agency, known scams and other unidentifiable organizations.

The results of the data analysis are as follows:

    •    105,260 complaints, or 59%, were unidentified government agency, fictitious or unrecognizable;
    •    28,450 complaints, or 16%, were listed with "unknown" as the company name;
    •    20,100 complaints, or 11.3%, were believed to be collection agencies;
    •    13,675 complaints, or 7.7%, were believed to be issuers; and
    •    11,150 complaints, or 6.2%, were believed to be debt buyers

The FTC recently shut down two companies that used a call center in India to defraud Americans out of more than $5 million over the past two years. The collectors made more than 8 million calls to consumers since 2010, using names such as "Federal Department of Crime and Prevention." This was one of several names the DBA classified as a fictitious "Federal" agency. 

DBA's research determined that fake agency name and others like it accounted for more than 1,200 complaints in 2011.

DBA concluded that if every complaint in 2011 was from a unique consumer and every complaint was legitimate, debt collection service level was 99.4% complaint-free. This is based on the percentage of unique complaints (178,640) divided by the 29.8 million adults involved in debt collections in 2011.  

Those complaint-free numbers improve for each category when divided among collection agencies (99.93%), credit issuers (99.95%) and debt buyers (99.96%). 

If those same complaints were divided by “contact attempts” instead of “consumers in debt collection,” the complaint-free percentages for collection agencies, issuers and debt buyers would all exceed 99.99%, according to DBA officials.

The industry will continue to work on and improve the complaint resolution processes. But as it currently stands, DBA officials concluded, the collection processes as measured by FTC complaints approach or exceed 6 SIGMA levels.

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