The Council of Better Business Bureaus released data showing that collection agencies received 21,576 complaints from consumers last year, the fifth most complained about financial sector. The BBB’s Complaint and Inquiry Statistics report indicates a large drop in complaints last year.
The BBB’s data runs counter to statistics released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which lists debt collection as the largest category for consumer complaints. The CFPB collects fewer complaints by volume, accepts complaints in just 11 categories and has limits on the type of complaints.
Collection agencies received 21,576 consumer complaints in 2014, according to BBB data.
The CFPB listed 8,224 complaints about debt collection in July alone. The category was the most complained about financial product or service, representing about 31% of the total complaints submitted for July. The second most-complained-about consumer product was credit reporting, accounting for nearly 6,700 complaints. Mortgage complaints came in third, accounting for nearly 4,500 complaints.
The BBB's 2014 complaint totals were led by: cellular telephone service and supplies; telephone communications; television – cable, CATV and satellite; and auto dealers – new cars. Complaints against collection agencies actually fell 11% from 2013 to 2014, according to the data.
The BBB numbers show that 82% of complaints received by collection agencies in 2014 were settled. In contrast, the average settlement rate for all industries surveyed by the BBB was 78%. The BBB reported more than three million inquiries into collection agencies in 2014 - the fourth highest amount out of all industries surveyed. Inquiries differ from complaints in that they present the opportunity to look at a business’s practices first rather than complaining about them later.
The most common collection issue identified by consumers to the CFPB involves ongoing attempts to collect debts the consumer contends are not owed.
Collection industry representatives, including ACA International, have criticized the CFPB's database for adding all complaints to the total - including those that have not been verified for accuracy.