Regulators ordered Texas-based Expert Global Solutions, described as the world's largest debt collection firm, on Tuesday to pay a $3.2 million fine for allegedly making illegal collections calls and not verifying debt in dispute.

The proposed order was the largest fine the Federal Trade Commission has issued against a third-party debt collector. The FTC said Expert and its affiliates violated debt collection laws partly by calling consumers multiple times a day, at unlawful hours and at workplaces. The company also continued to try to collect funds without verifying the debt and even after consumers denied owing it.

Expert, based in Plano, Texas, is the holding company for collections giant NCO Financial Systems Inc., as well as ALW Sourcing LLC, Transworld Systems Inc. (which does business as North Shore Agency Inc.) and several other companies.

Under the proposed order, whenever a consumer disputes the validity or the amount of the debt, the defendants must either close the account and end collection efforts, or suspend collections until they have conducted an investigation and verified that their information about the debt is accurate and complete. The proposed order also restricts situations where the defendants can leave voicemails that disclose the alleged debtor’s name and the fact that he or she may owe a debt.

Also under the proposed order, the defendants must: stop falsely representing that they will not call a number to collect a debt; not harass, oppress or abuse a consumer while attempting to collect a debt; not communicate with third parties about a consumer’s debt; not communicate with a consumer at his or her workplace if it is clearly inconvenient or prohibited by the consumer’s employer; except in limited circumstances, cease communications if a consumer has requested no further contact or if a consumer refuses to pay a debt; and not violate any provision of the FDCPA. 

The defendants also are required to record at least 75% of all their collection calls beginning one year after the date of the order, and retain the recordings for 90 days after they are made.

Expert's companies have more than 32,000 employees and revenues in 2011 of more than $1.2 billion. Along with U.S. offices, the companies operate in Canada, Barbados, India, the Philippines and Panama.

The proposed order, which was filed in the U.S. District for the Northern District of Texas on July 8, is subject to court approval.

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