Washington, DC - Over the past year, the Federal Trade Commission has continued its vigorous work on behalf of U.S. consumers suffering from unlawful debt collection practices, including bringing law enforcement actions against abusive and fraudulent operations, conducting education and public outreach initiatives, and implementing research and policy programs.

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is required to submit annual reports to Congress on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Since the CFPB and FTC jointly enforce the Act, the FTC’s summary of its own recent work on debt collection issues assists the CFPB in preparing the report to Congress. In 2014, the Commission:

  • filed 10 new debt collection cases against 56 new defendants, more cases than the FTC has ever filed before in a given year;
  • resolved nine cases and obtained nearly $140 million in judgments against abusive and deceptive debt collectors, including one case in which the agency obtained a record $90.5 million in judgments, shutting down more than 20 debt collection companies employing nearly 500 collectors, and has collected $16.5 million from the judgments to date;
  • banned 47 companies and individuals that engaged in serious and repeated law violations from ever working in debt collection again;
  • filed two joint amicus briefs with the CFPB on key debt collection issues; and
  • co-hosted, along with the CFPB, a day-long roundtable exploring issues related to the collection of debts from Latino consumers.

According to the summary, the FTC’s work over the past year has focused on: 1)egregious debt collection practices, including “phantom debt collection”; 2) security of consumer data in the buying and selling of debts; and 3) protection of limited-English-proficiency consumers from illegal debt collection practices.

The FTC also has worked to educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities under the FDCPA and the FTC Act.  In 2014, the agency distributed 14.8 million printed publications about debt collection to consumers nationwide and worked to educate industry by delivering speeches, blogging, participating in industry conferences, and providing education materials, among other things.

The Commission vote approving the letter was 5-0.