Complaints filed against debt collectors with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have increased, or held steady, in all but one month since the bureau began accepting them last July, according to an analysis of monthly complaint volume.
In March, those complaints totaled 3,428.
February 2014 - 3,342
January 2014 - 3,289
December 2013 - 2,440
November 2013 - 2,441
October 2013 - 1,795
September 2013 - 2,025
August 2013 - 1,510
July 2013 - 902
"It is reasonable to expect all of these numbers to continue to grow as the CFPB continues to populate the complaint database with older data. But the pattern should stay reasonably intact. We have probably not topped out yet in monthly complaint volume," says Jack Gordon, CEO of WebRecon LLC, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company that pulled the data.
In consumer litigation from U.S. district courts, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lawsuits have increased in recent months. In March, FDCPA lawsuits reached 875.
The previous months: 784 FDCPA cases in February; 709 in January; 767 in December; 684 in November; and, 760 in October. Despite the increases, year-to-date through March 31, FDCPA cases are down 18% - 2,378 this year compared with 2,893 a year ago.
"Maybe it is nothing. Then again, maybe the market for FDCPA litigation has begun to balance itself," says Gordon. "Either way, FDCPA is still down over last year, continuing the three-year [downward] trend."
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) litigation both continue to rise.
Year-to-date through March 31, FCRA cases totaled 657, up 3% from 635 in 2013. TCPA cases, however, rose 21% in the same period - to 597 from 493.
"No big surprises, other than perhaps how close TCPA seems to be to overtaking FCRA as the second most-litigated consumer statute in the debt collection arena," added Gordon. "It is not a matter of if TCPA overtakes FCRA this year, but how many, or few, months will it take to become official."
Consumers sued an estimated 846 different collection agencies and creditors in March, according to the data from the courts. Of the 1,195 unique plaintiffs, an estimated 441 (or 36.9%), previously sued under consumer statutes. Combined, those plaintiffs have filed an estimated 2,100 lawsuits since 2001.