Debt collection companies again sit atop the list of consumer complaints and ACA International is looking into a debt resolution program and national registry as possible remedies.

Debt collection, auto sales and home repair/construction businesses, as in 2007, were the top three subjects of consumer complaints to state attorneys general last year, according to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) and its non-scientific annual survey. Complaints regarding credit cards and Internet goods and services tied for fourth, and predatory lending/mortgage companies ranked sixth.

ACA officials say they are investigating ways to mitigate the amount of consumer complaints. The collection industry association is considering the development of a national debt collection dispute resolution program designed to resolve complaints consumers have against debt collectors in a timely, cost-effective and unbiased manner.

Furthermore, the ACA is considering the creation of a national debt collector registry that would require all collectors to be registered and pass an examination based on certain benchmarks. The association says the registry would increase accountability by enabling industry employers to track complaints filed against individual collectors.

"We feel a national debt collector registry could be an important step toward effectively weeding out those rogue collectors who are making life miserable for everyone else," Rozanne Andersen, ACA's executive vice president and general counsel, said in a prepared statement.

"As with any industry, there might always be that small fringe of bad actors, but our members want to continue working together to shrink that segment by increasing accountability and helping investigate and resolve consumer complaints in a more effective manner," Andersen said.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray's office released state data earlier this week in conjunction with NAAG's national survey results.

The attorney general's office received 2,446 complaints regarding debt collectors last year, a 15.2% increase compared with 2007, and 44% more than in 2006. Eight months into 2009, the attorney general has received 2,067 collection-related complaints.

"Consumers have the right to be treated with respect and dignity," Cordray said. "Overly aggressive tactics, such as making threats and repeated phone calls, are not allowed. Ohioans have enough financial worries without the added stress of harassing collection practices."

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