The FTC’s Annual Report on Consumer Complaints

In March 2011, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued their annual report, which included consumer complaints about 3rd party debt collectors, called “The FTC Annual Report 2011: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act”.  The FTC enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and receives hundreds of thousands of consumer complaints about debt collections.  Behind identity theft, debt collections received the second most complaints.

Complaints about debt collectors

Third party debt collection complaints from consumers or “FDCPA complaints” were 21% or 108,997 of all the complaints received by the FTC in 2010 compared to 16.8% or 88,326 in 2009.  This is an increase of 23.4% over 2009. Third party debt collectors include contingency fee collectors and attorneys who regularly collect directly or indirectly on debt asserted to be owed or due.

*Source – Federal Trade Commission

The category that increased the most from 2009 was “falsely threatens arrest or property seizure”.  The top three complaints were” repeated calls” which was considered harassment; “misrepresent debt character, amount or status” such as trying to collect a debt discharged in bankruptcy ; and “no written notice” for example, failure to send required consumer notice.  Obviously, one complaint covered more than one category such the percentages total more than 100%.

Federal Trade Commission

The FTC investigates the complaints and if an investigation reveals FDCPA violations, the FTC files suits seeking relief for consumers or goes through the Department of Justice as a civil suit.  Not every complaint is a violation and not everyone files a complaint because they may not be aware of their rights.  On the other hand, there are millions of consumers being contacted by collectors and not all are harassed.

It is important to be informed of your rights. If you are mistreated by third party collectors, you need to file a complaint with the FTC. The complaints seem to be going up, not down.

John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at, the credit blogger for, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.



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