An estimated 260 different collection agencies and creditors were named in 396 consumer statute lawsuits filed nationwide between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15, according to data from U.S. District Court complaint dockets compiled by research firm WebRecon LLC.

The total includes 319 lawsuits citing violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and another 36 citing alleged Fair Credit Reporting Act violations. An estimated 418 plaintiffs are named in the lawsuits, including 114 who previously had sued under consumer statutes. Combined, those plaintiffs have filed an estimated 702 lawsuits since 2001.

In 2009, lawsuits citing FDCPA violations reached a record high, totaling 8,287, easily topping the record of 5,188 set a year earlier, according to data from U.S. District Courts. The number of FDCPA lawsuits in 2006 and 2007 totaled 3,220 and 3,813, respectively.

ACA International, a collection industry trade association, said there may be several variables contributing to the rise in FDCPA lawsuits, including a spike in consumer debt and increased advertising by consumer attorneys via the Internet.

ACA International officials, however, are not convinced a spike in FDCPA-related litigation means there has been a correlating rise in actual FDCPA violations. The litigation statistics do not prove the legitimacy of the alleged claims, nor do they show how many lawsuits were dismissed, according to an official statement from ACA.

"These statistics are of concern to consumers and debt collectors alike. For this reason, ACA International members remain convinced consumers need an easy, user-friendly means to resolve their concerns and disputes," says Rozanne Andersen, ACA's chief executive officer and general counsel. "Debt collectors are in the business of resolving consumer debt issues. Those collectors who violate the law in fact are rogues and not representative of the vast majority of the 125,000 individuals serving this fine industry today."

Other consumer statute lawsuits saw negligible changes in 2009, compared with a year earlier. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) lawsuits, for example, totaled 1,174, up slightly in 2009 from 1,164 in 2008. The total remains down from a high of 1,347 reached in 2007.

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