Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported on their 2017 activities to combat illegal debt collection practices. The annual report to Congress on the administration of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) details the agencies’ efforts to stop unlawful debt collection practices, including vigorous law enforcement, education and public outreach, and policy initiatives.
“I appreciate the opportunity to work with Acting Chairman Ohlhausen and all our partners at the FTC,” Bureau Acting Director Mick Mulvaney said. “From now on, we will be working closely with the FTC to enforce the FDCPA while protecting the legal rights of all in a manner that is efficient, effective, and accountable.”
“The FTC will remain vigilant in our efforts to monitor this industry and stop unlawful conduct that harms both consumers and legitimate businesses and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners, including the CFPB, on this important issue,” FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen said.
The CFPB and the FTC share enforcement responsibilities under the FDCPA. In January 2012, they entered into a memorandum of understanding that provides for coordination in enforcement, sharing of supervisory information and consumer complaints, and collaboration on consumer education. The agencies work closely to coordinate respective efforts to protect consumers, including meeting regularly to discuss ongoing and upcoming law enforcement against collectors.
In 2017, the Bureau’s activities to combat illegal debt collection practices included fielding consumer complaints, filing lawsuits, and providing the public with tools to deal with aggressive debt collectors. Specifically, the Bureau:
- Handled approximately 84,500 debt collection complaints, making it one of the most prevalent topics of complaints about consumer financial products or services received by the Bureau;
- Uncovered a number of actions that examiners deemed to be violations of the FDCPA through its supervisory examinations;
- Filed briefs as amicus curiae in two cases in the federal courts of appeals arising under the FDCPA;
- Resolved one FDCPA enforcement case, resulting in both consumer relief and a payment to the civil penalty fund, and continued to litigate five others;
- Conducted a number of non-public investigations of companies to determine whether they engaged in collection practices that violated the FDCPA or the Consumer Financial Protection Act;
- Provided consumer debt collection educational materials, which have consistently remained among the most-viewed categories in “Ask CFPB,” an interactive online consumer education tool;
- Offered five sample letters that consumers may use when they interact with debt collectors, which have been downloaded more than 517,000 times as of December 2017; and
- Continued research projects to improve its understanding of the debt collection market and its impact on consumers, including a survey of consumer views on debt, the 2017 Credit Card Market Report, and its study of online debt sales, which have aided in the ongoing development of a potential debt collection rule.
In 2017, the FTC’s activities to combat illegal debt collection practices included bringing law enforcement actions against violators, banning illegal actors, and educating the public about their rights. Specifically, the FTC:
- Filed or resolved 10 cases against 42 defendants, and obtained more than $64 million in judgments;
- Banned 13 companies and individuals that engaged in serious and repeated violations of law from ever working in debt collection again;
- Focused on curbing egregious debt collection practices, including phantom debt collection;
- Worked to educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities under the FDCPA and FTC Act;
- Distributed 13.8 million print publications to libraries, police departments, schools, non-profit, banks, credit unions, other businesses and government agencies; and
- Logged more than 60 million views on its webpages, with its videos seen more than 581,000 times at YouTube.com/FTC, and its consumer blogs reaching 199,860 (English) and 50,480 (Spanish) email subscribers.
The Bureau and the FTC remain vigilant in their efforts to monitor the debt collection industry and stop unlawful conduct that harms both consumers and businesses. The CFPB’s annual report to Congress on the FDCPA, as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, includes information provided by the FTC.
The Federal Trade Commission vote approving its letter to the CFPB was 2-0.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.