Regulators Issue Report on Activities to Combat Illegal Debt Collection Practices
Yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) and Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued a joint annual report to Congress on their activities in 2017 to combat illegal debt collection practices under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), for which the agencies share responsibilities.
The report suggests that, even amidst other changes at the CFPB, debt collection activities remain an area of focus, particularly on the enforcement side. The report also highlights coordination between the FTC and CFPB at least on this issue. It remains to be seen how this coordination plays out practically in future investigations and how the CFPB handles similar overlapping authorities with other regulators.
The report’s highlights include the following:
• In 2017, debt collection remained one of the most complained-about consumer financial services. Both the FTC and the CFPB remained active in investigations and bringing public enforcement actions related to debt collection under the FDCPA and other laws.
- Public actions involving FDCPA matters resulted in over $577,000 in consumer relief and $78,800 in civil penalties. The FTC banned 13 companies and individuals from working in the debt collection industry in 2017.
- The CFPB also remained active in weighing in on ongoing FDCPA-related litigation through amicus briefs.
• CFPB supervision of debt collection activities identified the following FDCPA violations:
- impermissible communications with third parties;
- false representations to collect debts, including deceptively implying that authorized users are responsible for a debt; and
- communications with consumers outside of the usual hours recognized in the FDCPA.
• The CFPB is conducting research on the debt collection market and the impact on consumers to inform rulemakings to “protect consumers without imposing unnecessary costs,” although no new proposals were identified as imminent.
• The CFPB is still considering potential proposals for those entities defined as “debt collectors” under the FDCPA.
• The FTC is similarly conducting policy research, particularly with respect to financial issues relevant to military consumers and financial technologies, and unfair, deceptive, and abusive debt collection practices.