On September 9, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) sent a letter to the CFPB regarding the CFPB’s initial outline of the proposed rule for third party debt collectors. The letter asserts that, since the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted, credit unions have been exempt from the statute’s rules and that to extend any rulemaking pursuant to the statute to include credit unions would be “unlawful.” The CUNA distinguishes credit unions from for-profit debt collectors subject to the FDCPA, claiming that credit unions’ collection approach is more holistic: “They are not just interested in short-term efforts of collecting a debt; instead, they try to find out the specific cause of their member’s financial challenge.” The CUNA is concerned that certain aspects of the CFPB’s proposal as outlined, including the “highlight technical substantiation and oversight requirements,” would negatively impact credit unions. The CUNA reminded the CFPB that pursuant to the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), it is required to consider the recommendations in its letter before finalizing any rule.
On September 21, the DOJ and FTC entered into an agreement with the former vice president of a Texas-based debt collection company, to resolve allegations that that he violated Section 5 of the FTC Act and Section 807 of the FDCPA. The stipulated order enters a civil penalty of $496,000, but suspends the majority of the judgment based on certain conditions, including cooperation in the ongoing lawsuit against his former company.
FTC Resolves “Operation Collection Protection” Charges; Bans Companies from Debt Collection Business
On September 7, the FTC announced separate stipulated orders (here and here) against two groups of debt collectors to resolve November 2015 charges that their debt collection practices were deceptive, abusive, and unfair in violation of the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). According to the FTC, the first group of debt collectors (i) attempted to collect on debts consumers claimed they did not owe; (ii) failed to verify the debts; and (iii) impersonated law enforcement, threatened non-compliant consumers with arrests and lawsuits, and made accusations of bank fraud. In addition to barring the defendants from debt collection activities and from “misrepresenting material facts about any financial-related products or services,” the order imposes a judgment of more than $4.47 million. Regarding the second group of debt collectors, the FTC alleged that, in addition to threatening consumers with arrest if purported debts went unpaid and harassing friends, family members, and employees in an attempt to collect debts, they sent “alarming and deceptive text messages to trick consumers into contacting them, without identifying themselves as debt collectors.” Pursuant to the final judgment, the defendants must pay a judgment of approximately $27 million. The order imposes a separate judgment of $11,000 on the individually named defendant.
Filed in federal district court of New York, the actions were part of the FTC’s Operation Collection Protection, a federal-state-local initiative that has brought a total of 148 debt collection-related actions to date.
On August 24, the FTC, in coordination with New York AG Schneiderman, announced that it issued a final order banning a debt collector and his four companies from the debt collection business. According to the order, the defendants engaged in deceptive and abusive debt collection practices in violation of the FTC Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and New York General Business Law. The final order resolves a 2015 Operation Collection Protection action alleging, among other things, that the defendants “regularly threatened, pressured, and harassed consumers into paying debts [they] did not owe,” continuing to “collect on these fake debts even after the supposed creditor notified them that the debts were bogus.” The final order imposes a judgment of more than $18.4 million, which will be partially suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay. AG Schneiderman and the FTC issued a separate order to the owner’s ex-wife, imposing a $418,000 judgment, which also will be partially suspended.
On July 14, the FTC announced that two debt collectors and three companies (collectively, Defendants) previously charged with using false threats and other illegal collection tactics in violation of the FTC Act and the FDCPA have agreed to a stipulated final order. According to the FTC, the Defendants purchased consumer debts and then collected payment by intimidating consumers with false threat of lawsuits, wage garnishment and arrest, and by impersonating attorneys or process servers. In addition, the FTC alleged that the Defendants (i) failed to disclose to consumers their right to receive verification of a debt; (ii) did not identify themselves as debt collectors; and (iii) disclosed debts to third parties. The final order imposes a $4,802,646 judgment, which the FTC partially suspended upon the surrender of certain assets, and requires that the two individual debt collectors separately pay $59,207 and $50,562. The action is part of the FTC’s Operation Collection Protection, a nationwide initiative designed to combat alleged abusive and deceptive debt collection practices.