Encore Capital Group Inc., a consumer debt buyer, unveiled Monday a "Consumer Bill of Rights" - a document to "codify the company's commitment to conduct business ethically, engage in respectful and constructive dialogue with consumers, and play a positive role in consumers' financial recovery."

Encore Capital is the third-largest U.S. debt buyer based on annual revenue and the largest publicly traded debt buyer by revenue, according to Collections & Credit Risk research. 

"We've worked hard, consulting with consumer advocacy groups and others, to identify the issues and debt collection practices that impact consumers most," says J. Brandon Black, chief executive at Encore Capital. "In this document, we're embracing that feedback to take an industry-leading approach to help our consumers regain their purchasing power despite the lingering economic challenges. Encore has long been committed to the principles outlined in the Consumer Bill of Rights, and we are dedicated to building relationships with consumers based on honesty and integrity."

Key tenets of the document include:

    * Contacting consumers in a timely and effective manner, resolving accounts quickly and honestly, and ensuring collection practices that promote settlement and preserve dignity;
    * Establishing forgiveness and hardship guidelines, including the cessation of collection efforts when permanent hardship is demonstrated;
    * Suspending interest or fees when a consumer is making timely payments on an established plan;
    * Safeguarding consumer information;
    * Implementing the fair and reasonable use of litigation to resolve an outstanding obligation, and seeking to avoid litigation whenever possible; and
    * Committing to not resell defaulted consumer accounts in the normal course of business.

"This document marks an important milestone for Encore and our industry," Black says. "Our employees value and respect our consumers, and we look forward to additional opportunities to advance industry standards and uphold consumer rights"

Encore Capital's recent quarter and yearly results beat market expectations (see story).

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