FTC and CFPB Join Together to Report 2017 Illegal Debt Collection Practices

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) share overlapping jurisdiction on debt collection, payday lending, and consumer financing. The FTC has been around for decades establishing itself as the largest federal consumer protection agency taking action against telemarketing fraud, false advertising, identity theft, and take legal action against businesses that violate consumer protection laws. Similarly, the CFPB is focused on consumer financial protection. Founded in 2010 during the aftermath of the recession’s financial crisis, it enforces consumer financial laws and takes legal action against businesses that violate them. Congress granted the CFPB regulatory power over non-banks which are also regulated by the FTC making the overlap in jurisdiction conspicuous to the public.

The similarities continue in the way they operate. Spectators would consider the two regulatory agencies rivals, and before 2012 they appeared to be. Both agencies rely on consumer complaints as their source for investigation and enforcement actions. To this day since 2011, the CFPB has compiled over 991,082 consumer complaints against financial businesses. In 2012 the Commission and the Bureau entered into an agreement called a “Memorandum of Understanding,” to share supervisory information and consumer complaints, as well as collaborate to educate consumers.  Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the two agencies share enforcement responsibilities and every year they report to congress the details of their efforts to stop unlawful debt collection practices. Aside from this, the agencies have partnered up in numerous instances such the 2014 sweep against foreclosure relief scammers that collected more than $25 million in illegal fees from distressed home owners.

Today, the Commission and the Bureau partner up to report on the year 2017 activities to combat debt collection practices, providing an annual summary of the actions taken under the FDCPA. Both agencies released a press release with each commending each other for their cooperation. CFPB’s Acting Director Mick Mulvaney declared, ““From now on, we will be working closely with the FTC to enforce the FDCPA while protecting the legal rights of all in a manner that is efficient, effective, and accountable.” Maureen K. Ohlhausen, acting chairman of the FTC said, ““The FTC will remain vigilant in our efforts to monitor this industry and stop unlawful conduct that harms both consumers and legitimate businesses and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners, including the CFPB, on this important issue.”

The actions taken through 2017 by the agencies:

“In 2017, the Bureau’s activities to combat illegal debt collection practices included fielding consumer complaints, filing lawsuits, and providing the public with tools to deal with aggressive debt collectors. Specifically, the Bureau:

  • Handled approximately 84,500 debt collection complaints, making it one of the most prevalent topics of complaints about consumer financial products or services received by the Bureau;

  • Uncovered a number of actions that examiners deemed to be violations of the FDCPA through its supervisory examinations;

  • Filed briefs as amicus curiae in two cases in the federal courts of appeals arising under the FDCPA;

  • Resolved one FDCPA enforcement case, resulting in both consumer relief and a payment to the civil penalty fund, and continued to litigate five others;

  • Conducted a number of non-public investigations of companies to determine whether they engaged in collection practices that violated the FDCPA or the Consumer Financial Protection Act;

  • Provided consumer debt collection educational materials, which have consistently remained among the most-viewed categories in “Ask CFPB,” an interactive online consumer education tool;

  • Offered five sample letters that consumers may use when they interact with debt collectors, which have been downloaded more than 517,000 times as of December 2017; and

  • Continued research projects to improve its understanding of the debt collection market and its impact on consumers, including a survey of consumer views on debt, the 2017 Credit Card Market Report, and its study of online debt sales, which have aided in the ongoing development of a potential debt collection rule.”

“In 2017, the FTC’s activities to combat illegal debt collection practices included bringing law enforcement actions against violators, banning illegal actors, and educating the public about their rights. Specifically, the FTC:

  • Filed or resolved 10 cases under the FDCPA or FTC Act against 42 defendants, and obtained more than $64 million in judgments;

  • Banned 13 companies and individuals that engaged in serious and repeated violations of law from ever working in debt collection again;

  • Focused on curbing egregious debt collection practices, including phantom debt collection;

  • Worked to educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities under the FDCPA and FTC Act;

  • Distributed 13.8 million print publications to libraries, police departments, schools, non-profits, banks, credit unions, other businesses, and government agencies; and

  • Logged more than 60 million views on its webpages, with its videos seen more than 581,000 times at YouTube.com/FTC, and its consumer blogs reaching 199,860 (English) and 50,480 (Spanish) email subscribers.”

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