Debt Collectors

July 20, 2012 • Volume 22, Issue 26
Do consumers need additional safeguards?
By Barbara Mantel


Lung transplant recipient Tom Fuller testifies at a public hearing (AP Photo/The Star Tribune/Richard Tsong-Taatarii)
Lung transplant recipient Tom Fuller testifies at a public hearing in St. Paul, Minn., on May 30, 2012, about high-pressure debt collection at a Fairview Health Services hospital. A scathing report by Minnesota's attorney general documents tactics such as asking patients to pay while lying in pain on a gurney. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune/Richard Tsong-Taatarii)

Lawsuits filed against debt collectors multiplied in recent years, as have complaints to regulators about abusive collection tactics. Indeed, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives more consumer complaints against debt collectors than any other industry. Collection companies, which recover billions of dollars in delinquent debt for creditors annually, defend their practices and challenge the validity of many of the lawsuits and consumer complaints. Nevertheless, over the past 18 months, the FTC and state attorneys general have stepped up enforcement against collection agencies they believe are breaking consumer-protection laws. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service has drafted rules aimed at curbing aggressive collection methods at nonprofit hospitals, including dunning sick patients for payment in the emergency room. At the same time, the collection industry is bracing for tighter regulation from the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Credit and Consumer Debt
Jul. 20, 2012  Debt Collectors
May 17, 2011  Future of the Euro
Oct. 10, 2008  Regulating Credit Cards
May 09, 2008  Financial Crisis
Mar. 02, 2007  Consumer Debt
May 26, 2006  Teen Spending
Nov. 19, 1999  The Consumer Culture
Nov. 15, 1996  Consumer Debt
Sep. 13, 1985  America in Debt
Jan. 25, 1980  Consumer Debt
Apr. 11, 1975  Consumer Credit Economy
Jan. 12, 1972  Directions of the Consumer Movement
Nov. 10, 1965  Personal Debt in a Consumer Economy
Jan. 02, 1957  Tight Credit
Feb. 10, 1956  Consumer Credit
Mar. 30, 1949  Installment Credit
Aug. 09, 1941  Restriction of Consumer Credit
Jan. 28, 1941  The Big Business of Making Small Loans
Jan. 17, 1934  Federal Credit Aid for Consumers
Jan. 01, 1930  Installment Buying, 1920–1930
Consumer Credit and Debt