Looking back: Abusive debt collection in 2020

Regular readers of our Minnesota Consumer Rights Blog know that we have several times written in the past about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Simply put, it’s a law that helps to protect consumers from abusive debt collectors.

It’s not uncommon for a consumer who has just received for the first time a call from an abusive debt collector to think that the unacceptable behavior is rare and that perhaps their circumstances triggered the abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Widespread problem

The Federal Trade Commission says, “there is abundant evidence of the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices by many debt collectors.” The FTC notes that abusive debt collectors contribute to:

  • The number of personal bankruptcies
  • Martial instability
  • Job losses
  • Invasions of individual privacy

Hundreds per day

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released its annual report on its efforts related to debt collection.

The federal organization states that it received a whopping 82,700 complaints last year about debt collection – that’s 226 per day.

2020’s abusive debt collections

The CFPB reported that it examined a number of FDCPA violations in 2020, including the following:

  • Debt collectors made false threats of filing lawsuits against consumers that they couldn’t legally file or that they didn’t intend to file. Both threats are clear violations of the FDCPA.
  • Debt collectors who lied about the litigation process and the person’s obligations in the event of a lawsuit
  • Debt collectors who “implied representations to consumers that they would report their debts to credit reporting companies (CRCs)” if the debts weren’t paid by a certain date – and then didn’t report the debts at all. The CFPB noted in its report that the behavior violates the section of the FDCPA which bans “the use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.”
  • Debt collectors who lied or implied to consumers that they were employed by a CRC – another clear violation of the FDCPA.

Protecting your rights

The federal agency also reported on four lawsuits it filed over alleged FDCPA violations. Two of the suits ended with judgments of nearly $15.2 million.

Of course, those who have been subjected to abusive debt collection practices can also file lawsuits. You must file within a year of the date on which the violation took place. You can discuss your legal options with an attorney experienced in consumer rights litigation.