Now more than ever, the debt collection industry finds itself at a crossroads. Next month, collectors will begin to be regulated by the newly formed Consumer Protection Agency (CPA). Previously, our industry was under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC served the role of watchdog but never had the power to create rules or regulations. The CPA, on the other hand, will wield that power.
Unquestionably, updating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act of 1977 (FDCPA) is a significant issue facing the debt collection industry. You don’t need us to tell you that, as a people, we communicate in vastly different ways today than we did in the 70s. The effectiveness of physical mail and landline phones erodes more every year. What agencies need is a way for us to reach people in how they communicate today, meaning email and cell phones. These types of modern communication are not included in the FDCPA.
The difficulty comes from the public opinion of the debt collection industry. Like most other booming industries, there are those in our business that have been overzealous or might have acted unethically. Their actions negatively affect us and are preventing us from having access to the communication tools of the 21st century.
The overwhelming majority of collection agencies, ourselves included, operate legally and ethically and encourages strict sanctions against those that do not.
An article from Sunday’s New York Times gives the account of a Minnesota debt collector who deals with a barrage of insults every day. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in our industry. Such situations are no doubt a result of the negative attention generated by unethical collectors. We understand that we are not the Salvation Army; we deal in items of a sensitive nature and are not asking for sympathy. We ask only for the respect due to those performing a necessary, valuable service and the updated tools to continue doing so.