Complaints against debt collectors filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau dropped nearly 20 percent in February compared to January - to 2,513 from a revised 3,121. The decline mirrors the drop in CFPB complaint filings across all categories with 9,725 filed in February versus 12,231 in January (a 25.7 percent drop).
"In February we are seeing some volatility in CFPB filings against debt collectors," said Jack Gordon, CEO of WebRecon, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm that pulled the latest data. "The three fewer days in February are not enough to explain the drop, though it is reasonable to expect that the final February total will rise a bit to further close the gap - but not enough to make this much less dramatic."
An estimated 548 debt collectors were named in complaints in February.
The breakdown of complaints:
1,033 - Continued attempts collect debt not owed (41.1 percent)
492 - Communication tactics (19.6 percent)
406 - Disclosure verification of debt (16.2 percent)
222 - False statements or representation (8.8 percent)
206 - Improper contact or sharing of info (8.2 percent)
154 - Taking/threatening an illegal action (6.1 percent)
The top debt types behind the complaints:
682 - Other (phone, health club, etc.) (27.1 percent)
557 - Credit card (22.2 percent)
541 - Unknown (21.5 percent)
266 - Medical (10.6 percent)
183 - Payday loan (7.3 percent)
In litigation, an estimated 798 different collection agencies and creditors were sued in February by an estimated 1,102 consumers. Of those plaintiffs, an estimated 405 (or 36.8 percent) had previously sued under consumer statutes. Combined, those plaintiffs have filed an estimated 1,955 lawsuits since 2001.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lawsuits ticked up in February by slightly more than 10 percent to 784, but the number is down 21 percent over a year ago. Fair Credit Reporting Act lawsuits fell 2.6 percent to 186 in February and Telephone Consumer Protection Act lawsuits rose 6.7 percent 222. Both FCRA and TCPA cases are up year-to-date - at 20 percent and 35 percent respectively.
Consumer statute actions were filed in 167 different U.S. district courts. Illinois Northern District Court in Chicago led the way with 73 and Pennsylvania Eastern District Court in Philadelphia followed with 43.
Attorney Erikson M. Davis represented 60 consumers in these cases, followed by Sergei Lemberg (54), David Michael Larson (21) and Todd M. Friedman (21).
The CFPB released a report Thursday on recent collection enforcement actions and the 30,000 consumer complaints it has received about collections since it began accepting them last July.
ACA International, the largest trade group for the third-party debt collection industry, quickly responded to the report, stating that it missed several key points.