The most popular complaints about debt collection from consumers in January 2012 involved ARM firms calling repeatedly or continuously and calling about a debt consumers claim they didn’t owe or asking for more money than what consumers think they owe.
Those were the same top two categories in 2009, when insideARM.com last analyzed debt collection complaint data from the FTC. But there has been a fairly significant shift in the number of individual complaints that cite those two abuses.
In 2009, nearly half (47.4 percent) of all complaints received by the FTC claimed that collectors were calling them “repeatedly or continuously.” It was the most-cited complaint description by far. In January 2012, only 26.3 percent of complaints cited this issue, a decline of 44.5 percent. Either consumers no longer cared as much about call volumes, or debt collectors were calling less often. One thing is certain: the drop was not due to a change in the collection methodology of complaints.
It’s important to note that the FTC’s complaint descriptions are standard, meaning the language doesn’t change on a source by source basis. The descriptions are worded the same on the FTC’s online complaint form as they are in the FTC’s call center software interface. And the description wording in 2009 was identical to the wording today.
The decline in the call volume complaint was so dramatic, it landed in second place in January, now surpassed by “Falsely Represents Character, Amount, Status of Debt.” That category also declined in total citations.
|Violations Cited in Complaint Descriptions||% of Complaints (2009)||% of Complaints
|Calls any person repeatedly or continuously||47.4%||26.3%||-44.5%|
|Falsely Represents Character, Amount, or Status of Debt||29.9%||27.7%||-7.3%|
|Fails to Send Written Notice of Debt to Debtor||22.4%||18.6%||-17.0%|
|Falsely Threatens Suit\Illegal or Unintended Act||18.5%||19.0%||2.7%|
|Fails to Identify Self as Debt Collector||17.6%||12.6%||-28.4%|
|Calls Someone Repeatedly to Obtain Debtor’s Location||17.4%||13.3%||-23.5%|
|Calls Debtor at Work Knowing Debtor Can’t Take Calls||15.1%||9.6%||-36.4%|
|Uses obscene, profane, or otherwise abusive language||14.7%||8.3%||-43.2%|
|Collects Unauthorized Interest\Fees\Expenses||13.0%||6.5%||-50.2%|
|Tells Someone Other Than Debtor About Debt||12.5%||7.8%||-37.7%|
|Calls Debtor Before 8AM or After 9PM or at Inconvenient Times||11.8%||6.7%||-42.9%|
|Falsely Threatens Arrest, Seizure of Property||11.8%||14.5%||22.7%|
|Refuses to Verify Debt After Debtor Makes Written Request||10.9%||6.7%||-38.9%|
|Calls Debtor After Getting ‘Cease Communication’ Notice||9.6%||3.8%||-60.4%|
|Uses or threatens to use violence||2.5%||1.8%||-29.9%|