The debt collection industry thinks it has an image problem. Almost anyone who has had dealings with a debt collector (and chances are, if you are on this page you have), knows that the problems of debt collector behavior are more than skin deep. So it’s frustrating to read an article like this one, “Debt Collectors Ask to Be Paid a Little Respect,” published recently in the New York Times. The article is partly about debt collectors’ increased lobbying efforts, both in Washington and state capitals, asking for laws that will make their jobs easier.
But the article is also an interesting, although failed attempt, to show the other side of the coin, to make us feel some sympathy for the debt collector. For instance, here is one quote, from a Ms. Rogers, who works for a debt collection agency in Rochester, Minnesota: “The guy who sits across from me just was threatened with getting his legs and arms cut off.” I suspect this threat did not come out of the blue. One can only imagine the conversation that came before, and what the debt collector’s side of the conversation sounded like.
Another, rather telling quote came from Mark Neeb, incoming president of ACA International, a major debt collector’s trade association. In a clear indication of his position on consumer rights, Mr. Neeb said, “There really ought to be a law on how consumers behave toward debt collectors.” Mr. Neeb’s employees routinely use aliases on the phone, allegedly to protect their identity from hostile debtors. As more than one commentator has observed this is arguably the use of a false and misleading representation to collect a debt, an FDCPA violation.
Last, and my personal favorite, another quote from Mr. Neeb, complaining about the current protections provided by the FDCPA, “We can’t help consumers with their financial problems if we can’t get ahold of them.” Yes, he said that.
-- Sheril Stanford