The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau receives more complaints about debt collection than about any other topic. The complaints are submitted by consumers who reach out to the CFPB for help resolving problems with debt collectors and other problems in the financial marketplace.
In a 2014 analysis, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group found that in the first six months the CFPB’s consumer complaints database was available, problems with debt collectors were the second most frequently reported problem. Since then, complaints about debt collection have far outpaced other problems, with 100,000 more complaints than the next category. Of the more than 1 million complaints in the database in late 2016, 285,000 were about debt collection.
The most common problem consumers have with debt collectors is that the collector is trying to collect on debt that the consumer does not owe. Other common problems include abusive communication tactics such as frequent calls, calls at work, and threats of illegal action.
In response to these complaints, the CFPB has forwarded 129,000 complaints to companies and referred 109,000 to other agencies. The CFPB’s recent report of debt-collection complaints does not explain how these complaints were resolved, but our 2014 analysis found that the CFPB helped more than one in five consumers receive monetary or non-monetary relief.
In addition, in 2016 the CFPB’s enforcement actions against companies that violated debt collection laws resulted in $39 million being returned to consumers, plus $20 million in penalties. The CFPB used the penalty money to compensate customers who were owed money, and also to educate consumers.