An estimated 293 different collection agencies and creditors are named in 436 consumer statute lawsuits filed nationwide in the first half of February, according to data from U.S. District Court complaint dockets. The 15-day total trails the pace established in January. In that month, 712 collection agencies and creditors were named in 851 lawsuits.
The early February total includes 372 cases citing violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which is slightly ahead of the pace in January when FDCPA suits totaled 716. The number of Fair Credit Reporting Act lawsuits totaled 38 in early February. Research firm WebRecon LLC, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., compiles the monthly data and commonly analyzes trends occurring throughout each month.
Of the 436 consumer statute lawsuits filed in the first 15 days of the month, there are 462 unique plaintiffs, including an estimated 153 previously sued citing consumer statute violations. Combined, those plaintiffs have filed an estimated 766 lawsuits since 2001. Some other consumer statutes included in the monthly data include the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Truth-in-Lending Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
ACA International, a collection industry trade association, said there may be several variables contributing to a rise in FDCPA lawsuits, including more advertising by consumer attorneys via the Internet and an increase in overall consumer debt.
ACA officials are not convinced that more FDCPA litigation means there has been a correlating rise in actual 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."
In 2009, lawsuits citing FDCPA violations reached 8,287, a record high and easily topping the previous mark of 5,188 set a year earlier, according to U.S. District Courts. The number of FDCPA lawsuits in 2006 and 2007 totaled 3,220 and 3,813, respectively.
Other consumer statute lawsuits saw negligible changes in 2009, compared with a year earlier. 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.