The Federal Trade Commission had its busiest year ever in 2015, as it pertains to its regulation and enforcement over the debt collection industry, according to a report submitted by the agency to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last week.
The FTC brought or resolved 18 cases in 2015, according to the report, which is intended to supplement the annual report that the CFPB is required to provide to Congress related the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The FTC’s report highlights the agency’s work in three areas – law enforcement, education and public outreach, and research and policy development activities.
Much of the actions taken against debt collectors by the FTC last year is summarized in the report, including orders and settlements that shut down agencies, barred individuals from ever participating in the collection industry again, and recouped millions in fines and levies. The FTC also highlighted the list of banned debt collectors and debt collection agencies that it is now maintaining on its website.
To spotlight its education and public outreach, the FTC revealed that its website received more than 102 million pageviews in 2015. To fulfill its research and policy development mandate, the FTC pointed to the three “Debt Collection Dialogue” events that it hosted nationwide during 2015 – in Buffalo, Dallas, and Atlanta. The events were highly anticipated by the industry, but left some in the industry feeling that they could have been more worthwhile had the dialogue between industry and regulators been more structured.
The FTC also used the report as an opportunity to promote Operation Collection Protection, billed as the first federal-state-local law enforcement initiative aimed at identifying and prosecuting fraudulent and illegal debt collectors.
The nationwide crackdown has so far included over 130 new law enforcement actions by federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities against collectors who used illegal tactics such as harassing phone calls and false threats of litigation, arrest, and wage garnishment. More than 70 law enforcement partners have participated so far in this continuing initiative. Operation Collection Protection included the twelve new enforcement actions against debt collectors brought by the FTC in 2015.