I read with interest the white paper “The Future of Compliance for the Debt Collection Industry.” The following are a few quotes from this paper that I found most interesting. I hope they get you thinking about your compliance plans in 2012!
“The global financial crisis that officially began in the fall of 2008 ushered in what some have called an entirely new world for the debt collection industry.”
Walter Steele, F.H. Cann & Associates, Inc. wrote, “If we take a 20,000 foot view of the current economic condition we find our country in, one will realize that truly educated, hard-working professional people, who three years ago were gainfully employed, making a respectable living, and had never missed a payment to their creditors, are now – through no fault of their own – unemployed and struggling to meet the basic needs of the their family.”
Mr. Steele also wrote, “It is critically important that we re-emphasize to our front lines and stress the importance of treating all consumers with respect and dignity. We need to be that calming voice of reason on the other end of the phone, to show empathy for the consumer’s current situation and work with them on finding a solution that helps them pay their debts, especially with the ‘new’ unemployed.”
The “Consumer Protection Bureau (CFPB)…will serve as the federal regulator overseeing the ARM industry.” The CFPB …”with expanded authority over debt collectors is certain to shape the future course of compliance for the ARM industry.”
The section Donna Nicholson Steif of Credit Bureau of Lancaster County, Inc. wrote resonated with many of my own thoughts. She said, “It’s fair enough to say the decision to leave a message (voice mail) or not to leave a message places our industry in the middle of a catch-22. Many of us agree: we are victims of a lack of interpretation.
“While we struggle to stop frivolous lawsuits, it behooves us to examine our practices and ask: Are we really doing all we can to close the gaps on preventable lawsuits?” She writes further, “…we should have a policy of continuing education…..a 90-minute FDCPA webinar may prevent the next lawsuit from hitting your desk.”
Nick Jarman, Delta Outsourcing Group, Inc. wrote, “Adhering to ACA International’s Collector Pledge will also keep most agencies out from under the eyes of unscrupulous consumer attorneys who attempt to extort money from them by threatening a lawsuit without merit or any wrongdoing.” He continues with “collecting debt today is difficult enough in itself with the state of our economy. There is more debt to collect than ever before, equal only to the number of consumers unable to pay. Debt collectors continue to be perceived as the bad guys, even though more time, effort, and resources have been expended to ensure the opposite is true. The reality today is that any consumer attorney has the ability to threaten/file a lawsuit against a collection agency with or without a violation.”
While the ARM industry is tied down with onerous regulations, agency owners have always found ways to be successful while following the law. I’m confident that the industry will adapt to changing regulations in the future.
This article was written by Dave R