CFPB and FTC release 2020 FDCPA report
On March 22, the CFPB and the FTC released their 2020 annual report to Congress on the administration of the FDCPA. Under a memorandum of understanding, the agencies are provided joint FDCPA enforcement responsibility and may share supervisory and consumer complaint information, as well as collaborate on education efforts. Among other things, the report provides a broad overview of the debt collection industry during the Covid-19 pandemic and highlights enforcement actions, education efforts, policy initiatives, and supervisory findings. The report also notes that the Bureau handled roughly 82,700 complaints filed by consumers about first- and third-party debt collectors in 2020, up from the 75,000 complaints it received in 2019, and engaged in four public enforcement actions arising from alleged FDCPA violations. Judgments resulting from these actions yielded nearly $15.2 million in consumer redress and $80,000 in civil money penalties. Additionally, the report discusses the Bureau’s FDCPA-rulemaking actions taken last year, including the issuance of two final rules amending Regulation F, which implements the FDCPA (covered by InfoBytes here and here). The report notes that both final rules are scheduled to take effect on November 30, but also refers to a February statement released by acting Director Dave Uejio, in which he “directed staff to ‘explore options for preserving the status quo’” with respect to the debt collection rules.
Earlier in the week, the FTC announced it provided the CFPB last month with its annual summary of debt collection-related activities taken in 2020. While the FTC’s debt collection program primarily focuses on enforcement investigations and litigation with respect to violations of the FDCPA and the FTC Act, the summary also highlights Commission efforts to engage in public outreach, as well as partnerships with the Bureau and other government agencies to combat unlawful debt collection practices. Highlights of the summary include:
- The creation of Operation Corrupt Collector, a nationwide enforcement and outreach effort led by the FTC in coordination with the CFPB and more than 50 federal and state law enforcement partners to target illegal debt collection practices (covered by InfoBytes here).
- The FTC filed or resolved seven cases against 39 defendants, obtaining $26 million in judgments.
- The FTC accused a company and three of its officers of allegedly engaging in passive debt collection—a practice known as “debt parking”—in which the defendants placed debts that consumers did not owe or the defendants were not authorized to collect on consumers’ credit reports without first attempting to communicate with the consumers about the debts (covered by InfoBytes here).
- The FTC and the New York attorney general permanently banned an individual defendant accused of engaging in “serious and repeated violations of law” from participating in debt collection activities (covered by InfoBytes here).
- The FTC produced educational materials for both consumers and debt collectors covering rights and responsibilities under the FDCPA and FTC Act, including resources specifically for Spanish speakers.