Lawsuits filed in federal courts involving collection and credit issues surged in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 as more Americans struggled with foreclosures and consumer debt.
The fiscal 2009 numbers released this week by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts showed that suits filed by individuals or state regulators under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, and Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, had climbed 53% from the year earlier, to 6,463.
Despite the increase, the FDCPA and FCRA numbers were much lower than the record figures tallied for the 2009 calendar year by WebRecon LLC.
Jack Gordon, the chief executive officer of the research firm, which analyzes court data, said FDCPA cases alone totaled 8,287 in the calendar year.
The two reports measured overlapping but not congruent periods, but Gordon said this does not account for the difference.
"My suspicion is that" the court administrative office "just counted the cases that were neatly labeled as FDCPA and FCRA," he said. "There are a lot more that are not properly categorized."
The new report showed a significant number of suits against credit reporting agencies.
The law requires the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax Inc., Experian Group and TransUnion LLC — to keep accurate records and respect consumers' privacy rights; it spells out consumers' rights to get access to their credit reports and to dispute inaccurate information.
The fiscal-year numbers also showed a tripling, to 1,517, of foreclosure cases brought in federal court under the Truth-in-Lending Act.
Foreclosures usually are state litigation, but mortgage terms can be challenged under federal law.