The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s latest monthly report on complaints submitted by consumers focuses on debt collection complaints. The report indicates that the most common debt collection complaint concerns attempts to collect on a debt the consumer reported wasn’t owed. 

Debt collection has been the most-complained-about financial product to the CFPB by consumers. As of March 1, the CFPB has had handled approximately 219,200 debt collection complaints since it started accepting them in July 2011. Some of the findings in the monthly snapshot include: 

  • Most-complained-about debt collection companies: The two companies that the CFPB received the most debt collection complaints about included giants Encore Capital Group and Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc. Both companies are among the largest debt buyers in the U.S. They averaged more than 100 complaints each month between October and December 2015. In 2015, the CFPB took enforcement actions against both for using deceptive tactics to collect bad debts.

  • Collection on debts not owed: The most common debt collection complaint had to do with both first- and third-party debt collectors attempting to collect on a debt the consumer reported wasn't owed. These types of complaints accounted for 38% of all debt collection complaints submitted.
  • Debt collectors repeatedly calling consumers: Another frequent complaint from consumers was about communication tactics used by debt collectors. Consumers complained about receiving multiple calls weekly and sometimes daily from debt collectors. Consumers often complained that the collector continued to call even after being repeatedly told that the alleged debtor could not be contacted at the dialed number. Consumers also complained about debt collectors calling their places of employment.
  • Consumers unable to verify debts owed: Consumers complained that they were not given enough information to verify whether or not they owed the debt that someone was attempting to collect. 

 "Today’s report shows that inaccurate information about debts continues to be a source of frustration for many consumers," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "We will continue to hold debt collectors accountable for ensuring that they are collecting the right amount from the right person.” As of March 1, the CFPB has handled 834,400 complaints nationally since July 2011. Some of the highlights from the statistics in the new report include: 

  • Complaint volume: As of March 1, debt collection complaints represented 26% of total cumulative complaints submitted to the CFPB, surpassing mortgages as the most-complained-about product or service.
  • Product trends: Complaints submitted relating to credit reporting rose 13% between January and February. During February, 3,832 credit reporting complaints were submitted. 
  • State information: Of the five most populated states, New York — 12% — experienced the greatest month-to-month complaint volume percentage increase, while Texas — 8% — experienced the greatest month-to-month percentage decrease. Complaints from the five most populous states, California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois account for more than 40% of complaints submitted to the since July 2011. 
  • Most-complained-about companies: The top three companies about which the CFPB received the most complaints between October and December last year were the three major credit-reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. 

 The CFPB highlighted Florida for the March report. As of March 1, consumers in Florida submitted 80,200 of the 834,400 complaints the CFPB has handled. Complaints from the three largest metro areas in Florida - Miami, Orlando and Tampa Bay - accounted for nearly 60% of those complaints.

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