Study Reveals ‘Gulf’ Between Consumers, Collectors When it Comes to Debt Verifications

A law professor and two psychology professors from St. John’s University have conducted a study on the validation notices required to be sent to individuals under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and found a “gulf” between what consumers expect when disputing a debt and what collection agencies are required to provide, as dictated by a number of legal rulings.

This is the second such study for Jeff Sovern, a law professor at St. John’s. In his earlier study of validation notices, he and a colleague offered a number of recommendations to help improve the content and readability of validation notices, often referred to as “g notices” because of the section of the FDCPA that requires the letters be sent.

The full report from Sovern, Kate Walton, and Nathan Frishberg has not yet been released. The researchers showed individuals different copies of collection letters and attempted to determine how well the individuals understand the contents of the letters. Their findings “raise serious questions about the efficacy of a commonly-used form of validation notice,” according to an abstract of the article.

Another finding from the report reveals that individuals are less likely to dispute debts a second time if they had already disputed it once. The conclusion is that some individuals are ready to “surrender” their rights “because they grow tired of asserting them,” the authors conclude. This is particularly relevant given that debts — especially those that have been disputed — can be sold to other collectors.

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