A poll that was intended to show how individuals of all political parties “overwhelmingly oppose the actions taken by Mick Mulvaney to undermine the mission of the” Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection includes some very interesting insights into debt collections as well.
The questions asked in the poll, which surveyed 1,000 people nationwide, are fairly transparent in that they are intended to display the broad concerns that individuals have related to the importance of consumer protections and regulation of financial services products is important. It’s not surprising that most people, Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, feel that way. The key, many will say, is in the ways that consumer protections are enforced and in how financial services are regulated. The devil is in the details.
Nonetheless, the consumer groups behind the polls asked some interesting questions about debt collectors and it’s not difficult to see how the public perception of the industry is as negative as it is. The pollsters prompted individuals with three statements specifically about debt collectors, asking the individuals whether the statement was “very concerning,” “somewhat concerning,” “a little concerning,” or “not at all concerning.” The statements:
- Relying on bad or incomplete information, some debt collectors target the wrong people or try to collect on debts that have already been paid
- Debt collectors sue a million consumers each year even when they do not have the evidence to prove their case in court
- Debt collectors are seeking government approval to make pre-recorded, automated calls to cell phones for collection purposes without approval of the person being called
Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of respondents found all three statements “concerning.” My question is, why didn’t everyone find those statements to be very concerning? I find those statements concerning. But I also know that most debt collectors do not look like the ones in those statements. The debt collectors I know follow the law, as difficult as that can be. They don’t collect on debts that have been paid. They don’t sue if they don’t have evidence. A poll that spotlights the bad actions of a small number of participants in a market does nothing but paint the whole market with that brush. Is everyone in the collections industry an angel? No. But that doesn’t that everyone is evil, either.
This poll has all the markings of what are known as “push polls.” Push polls are intended to manipulate how someone views a political candidate or topic under the guise of asking opinion questions.