A growing number of experts agree: Complaints against debt collectors are down, and debt collectors still outrank other industries in complaint resolution. New, convincing data from reliable sources shows that debt collectors are working everyday to help consumers and do not deserve the negative perception they are given in media reports.
The Council of Better Business Bureaus recently released data from 2014 showing that debt collectors have dropped to fifth place among the most complained-about service providers by consumers. The BBB's 2014 Complaint and Inquiry Statistics also show a dramatic decrease in the number of complaints against debt collectors.
According to BBB data, debt collectors received 21,576 consumer complaints in 2014. Consumers complained more about: cellular telephone service and supplies; telephone communications; television – cable, CATV and satellite; and auto dealers – new cars. Complaints against debt collectors also decreased 11 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the data.
The BBB data shows that 82 percent of complaints received by debt collectors in 2014 were resolved. In contrast, the average resolution rate for all industries surveyed by the BBB was 78 percent.
"The numbers speak for themselves. Debt collectors are trained, financial services professionals working constantly to help consumers solve problems and get back their financial footing," said Pat Morris, CEO of ACA International.
More and more data supports this fact. Another report from the Consumer Federation of America and North American Consumer Protection Investigators shows that credit/debit complaints were the third most common consumer complaints at the state and local levels in 2014; debt collection was just a small fraction of that overall category. According to the 2014 Consumer Complaint Survey Report, the most common consumer complaints made to state and local consumer agencies were auto-related problems, and identity theft was the fastest-growing complaint at the state and local level in 2014.
These numbers run contrary to findings released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which indicate debt collection is the number one consumer complaint in its online database. The CFPB has handled more than 163,000 debt collection complaints to date.
However, CFPB data also shows that an overwhelming majority of debt collection complaints are resolved amicably. Debt collectors responded to approximately 90 percent of complaints sent to them by the CFPB in a timely manner. Two-thirds of consumers did not dispute the responses provided by the debt collectors.
Also, the most common debt collection issue identified by consumers to the CFPB is continued attempts to collect debts the consumer contends are not owed. These disputes, along with all other complaints made to the CFPB, are neither verified for accuracy nor indicative of any actual wrongdoing. Nevertheless, each unverified "complaint" is still added to the CFPB's overall tally, a fundamental flaw of the consumer complaint database, which ACA International has consistently challenged.
ACA International (ACA), the association of credit and collection professionals, is the largest membership organization in the credit and collection industry. Founded in 1939, ACA brings together third-party collection agencies, law firms, asset buying companies, creditors and vendor affiliates, representing tens of thousands of industry professionals. ACA produces a wide variety of products, services and publications, including educational and compliance-related information; and articulates the value of the credit and collection industry to businesses, policymakers and consumers. www.acainternational.org.