Consumers Cry Foul Over Debt Collectors

December 15, 2011
Wall Street Journal P. C1

Despite a significant rise in consumer complaints about illegal debt collectors, enforcement actions have remained relatively flat. The Federal Trade Commission fielded 164,361 complaints about illegal late-night phone calls, arrest threats, and more in 2011 -- up 17 percent from 140,036 the year before. However, the regulator has initiated just four enforcement actions this year, typically against firms that repeatedly offend. But FTC officials said the small number of enforcement actions is a misleading gauge of its determination to punish violators of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which outlines how debt collectors can contact delinquent borrowers. The agency "is cracking down on abusive collection practices and directs its resources to go after some of the largest debt collectors," according to J. Reilly Dolan, acting director of the FTC's financial practices unit. All grievances to the agency are entered into its database called Consumer Sentinel, which now holds approximately 6.1 million complaints.
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