The National Association of Attorneys General recently announced that debt collection topped the list of consumer complaints to state AG offices during 2008.
As more and more American adults lose thier sources of income, many fall into severe debt that can cause them to lose possessions or their homes – and be harassed by debt collectors. Unemployment in the U.S. spiked to 9.7 percent in August, hitting the highest rate since 1983.
LGB people are currently unprotected from workplace discrimination in many states. Currently, according to the Human Rights Campaign, it remains legal in 29 states to fire or harass an employee based on sexual orientation; in 38 states, the same is true based on gender identity or expression.
Members of the debt collection industry’s leading trade association, ACA International, responded to debt complaints by offering a pair of unique solutions that would address the issue at a national level.
“First of all, there is no place in our industry for debt collectors who cannot treat consumers with dignity and respect,” said Rozanne Andersen, executive vice president and general counsel for ACA International, The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals.
“The members of ACA International do not condone nor endorse any illegal, unethical or deceptive tactics when it comes to collectors contacting consumers. Complaints are an issue this industry needs to address. In our view, one complaint is too many. Our members are actively working on solutions.”
Andersen said those solutions include a recent decision of ACA International’s Board of Directors to explore the development of a national debt collection dispute resolution program that would seek to resolve complaints consumers have against debt collectors in a timely, cost-effective and unbiased manner.
ACA International is the comprehensive, knowledge-based resource for success in the credit and collection industry. Founded in 1939, ACA includes more than 5,500 members worldwide, including third-party collection agencies, asset buyers, attorneys, creditors and vendor affiliates. The association establishes ethical standards, produces a wide variety of products, services and publications and articulates the value of the credit and collection industry to businesses, policymakers and consumers.
The ACA board gave a green light this summer to further discussion on and research the concept of creating a national debt collector registry. In theory, the registry would require every individual debt collector as defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or applicable state law to be registered and pass an examination based on critical job benchmarks. Also, the registry would increase accountability by enabling industry employers to track complaints filed against individual collectors.
“We feel a national debt collector registry could be an important step toward effectively weeding out those rogue collectors who are making life miserable for everyone else,” Andersen said. “We know the vast majority of collection agencies and individual debt collectors in this industry treat consumers with dignity and respect, and do their work every day in a highly professional and ethical manner. As with any industry, there might always be that small fringe of bad actors, but our members want to continue working together to shrink that segment by increasing accountability and helping investigate and resolve consumer complaints in a more effective manner.”
Finally, Andersen said ACA members understand consumer education is a critical piece of the complaint puzzle. Earlier this year, the non-profit ACA International Education Foundation created Ask Doctor Debt, a fast free and friendly financial literacy Web site that helps consumers find answers to their most frequently asked debt and credit questions. To date, the Ask Doctor Debt Web site has reached more than 20 million consumers thanks to ongoing national media attention since its launch in April.