Industry Groups Hopeful Participation at FTC Event Will Lead To Meaningful Dialogue

It appears as though both the industry and regulators knew that not having anyone from the collections or debt-buying industries participate in the first Debt Collection Dialogue was a bad idea.

Representatives from ACA International, DBA International, and the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys (NARCA) will participate as speakers at the Federal Trade Commission‘s next Debt Collection Dialogue event, to be held September 29 in Dallas.

DBA said it was contacted by the FTC and invited to participate. It is still determining who will represent the group of debt buyers and sellers. NARCA President Joann Needleman said she reached out to a contact at the FTC after the event in Buffalo in June and suggested that the industry needed to be more involved. Cindy Sebrell, the vice president of Public Affairs at ACA didn’t know whether the association reached out to the FTC or vice versa, but did say that the group is in “constant communication” with the regulator.

Rob Foehl, ACA’s general counsel, and Michael Frost, a member of ACA’s Board of Directors and the general counsel of CBE Companies, will be participating.

As to what the industry will be speaking about, that is still up in the air. None of the groups were able to say what the topic of their panel discussions will be. Two panel discussions are scheduled for Dallas. Each panel discussion will include regulators and industry participants. The first event in Buffalo had only regulators on the panels.

MaryAnne Kelly, an Associate Director at DBA, said that the FTC has indicated that it wants this event to be “more of a dialogue” than the first event.

While everyone seems encouraged with the participation of the industry’s three major trade groups, it is still likely that the event will not yield much in the way of meaningful dialogue. While we’ll choose to wait until we see the discussion topics before passing final judgment, it is hard to believe that the fact of putting both sides of the industry on the same dais will result in substantive changes. This does not diminish the importance of the industry’s participation. They must be on that dais. But it should be them who are doing the majority of the talking and the regulators who are doing the listening.

The best way for this event to provide actual actionable ideas is to essentially allow legitimate collectors and debt buyers talk about how hard it is to do their job. How hard it is to get borrowers on the phone and how much harder ridiculously ambiguous rules make it. How hard it is to try and convince consumers to be responsible for their financial obligations and to do so when they have all the power and the government seems to be siding more with them than with those who are in the right.

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