Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Debt Collectors Go on the Offensive

The New York Times this weekend ran a piece that caught my eye, "Debt Collectors Ask to Be Paid a Little Respect." While the article first laments the rise in business that our struggling economy has brought them and the often rude response debt collectors get from consumers, the debt collectors seem to be on the offensive legally. Like the banking industry, the article notes the concern the debt collectors have about coming under the auspices of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). After all, the Federal Trade Commission did not concern the debt collectors as the FTC did not have regulatory authority. The CFPB would, though, be able to write regulations to police the industry.

So, the debt collectors want some updating of their own to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. After all, why not? Who says consumer protection has to be just for consumers? The debt collectors are asking for access to consumers emails, cell phones and to use auto-dialers. After all, don't consumer's prefer this? My word, don't we all get enough robo-calls already on our cell phones? A robo-call system would seem to violate Section 806(5)'s prohibition on causing a telephone to ring repeatedly in any event. With the coming political season, though, perhaps the debt collectors are right that we all better get used to robo-messages on our cell phones anyways.

ACA International, the trade union for collection agencies, posted a Blueprint for Modernizing Debt Collection on its website. The Blueprint does advocate that debt collectors be permitted to call consumer cell phones (despite the additional charges imposed by some carriers), text and email consumers and even leave pre-recorded messages on cell phones. The Blueprint expressly advocates that debt collectors be permitted to communicate by any method of communication available. How about a consumer's facebook page? Linked-In? What about email accounts that are accessible by a consumer's employer? Of course, there is more there in the Blueprint that troubles me, but this area is full of difficulty for protecting consumers.

Surely, I am skeptical about allowing debt collectors unfettered access to the digital mediums available for use by consumers. The risk and cost to consumers would surely increase, with little exposure to debt collectors who violate the law (currently up to $1000 in most cases). While I am sure that the debt collectors that the New York Times spoke with are genuinely the nicest of people, I had the experience last year of having one of the not so nice debt collectors call me erroneously about a medical bill that had long been paid. Of course, the hospital apologized for the mistake, and wasn't sure how the information even was referred to debt collector. Of course, the lack of documentation that persists the industry at present becomes the first issue to tackle before erroneous robo calls and auto-mated emails flood our accounts. Can I opt-out?



debt collectors said...

I agree with this line that says"...struggling economy has brought them and the often rude response debt collectors get from consumers" this is so true for the debt collectors. On the other hand, it is common practice among businesses to extend credit to customers to earn goodwill and improve sales. If customers do not pay their debts on time or try to get out of paying, debts turn into a heavy expense.

RBDC said...

How to reverse boycott debt collectors.

When a debt collector/debt collection/debt buyer company can repeatedly call with the intent of getting money their customers can repeatedly answer or call back with the intent of not giving them any. They need people to pay with as little talk as possible. They don't want to talk with people who know they are never going to pay. Be all talk and no pay. Answer when convenient. Call back. Give no information. Verify nothing. Ask as many questions as you can. Answer none.

Don't ignore/block/report them. It doesn't work. These folks want you to ignore them for as long as you can stand to or until you give them something valuable like money or information. Ignoring them is being their good customer. Sending a cease and desist is giving information. It lets them know you are still alive and remain their good customer. Preparing to initiate unlikely individual legal battles is being their good customer.

Be their bad customer. Make them talk to you fruitlessly for as long as they can stand to or until they stop selecting you as their customer. These companies cannot spend seconds much less minutes on the phone with every person who will never send them a dime. But they don't know who that is. You do. That knowledge is power. Every second you can keep their staff on the phone will render their business less profitable giving them a reason to never call you again.

Calling will not reset your SOL. Making a partial payment will.

One person who does this likes to ask general questions they should but usually won't answer, "May I have the name and address of your agent for service of process?" Calmly and slowly ask them to spell every word in the address. Read it back for verification. Control the pace. If they are rushing then politely ask them to slowly repeat. "Are you a corporation and if so in which state are you incorporated?" Repeat your questions when you don't get direct answers. When they won't answer a question ask, "Would you like to comply with the business and professions codes of your state?" That is usually the point when they hang up on me but if they say they want to comply then begin your questions again.

Repeat while you have the spare time. These folks have many victims and few operators. If everyone calls back but pays nothing the mass auto-dialer business model becomes unprofitable. Don't aid and comfort the enemy by ignoring them. Call! Have a nice long slow friendly chat! Make them hang up first.

Press 2 for Spanish.

There are certainly enough victims to take down debt collectos so ignoring/blocking seems downright Orwellian. Really? We're just going to passively submit and go with a block list or however we manage ignoring an endless stream of unwanted phone calls day after day? No! Unite or remain conquered. Answer/return every call - become well practiced at keeping these folks on the phone - or count yourself not amongst the free.