HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver took a detailed look at the business of debt collection and debt buying on Sunday's episode, then forgave nearly $15 million in medical debt purchased after Oliver and his team paid $50 to register a debt-buying firm they named, Central Asset Recovery Professionals (CARP), in Mississippi.
The following is a statement about the program from DBA International, the association representing debt buyers.
DBA International disagrees with certain broad characterizations of the debt-buying industry contained in the June 5 episode.
We wholeheartedly agree with the premise of the show that unscrupulous activity within the industry harms consumers.
This position is the core of DBA International's Receivables Management Certification Program and the reason why the association requires certification of all companies actively purchasing receivable portfolios as a requirement of membership. These standards meet, and often exceed, the already implemented state and federal laws and regulations.
The segment highlighted well-publicized problems from the past instead of discussing industry regulations and reform, benefits to consumers and contributions to the economy.
John Oliver's producers contacted DBA International and we participated in a lengthy interview in the days before it aired providing extensive background on the industry and the certification program. This information was not incorporated into the show.
It's important to note that the debt-buying industry is one of the most comprehensively regulated financial services industries in the country, both at the federal and state level. The questionable debt collection practices highlighted in John Oliver's program are not collection tactics – they are prohibited illegal actions.
DBA International member companies work proactively with consumers to resolve their financial condition by customizing payment plans, ending accruing interest and offering settlements for less than the principal balance. This vital industry assists the credit economy and allows consumers to settle their legal obligations in a safe and compliant manner. Moreover, DBA International's certification program ensures that debt buying companies treat consumers fairly and with respect and integrity.
During the show, Oliver touched on the Federal Trade Commission case against Williams, Scott & Associates and the recent CFPB settlement with the Pressler & Pressler LLP law firm. He also played hidden camera footage from February's DBA International conference.