For 2011, the Federal Trade Commission reported that there were 180,928 complaints filed by consumers against a debt collector. This ranked debt collection as the second most complained about category; identity theft topped the list with 279,156.

(For any over-achievers reading: this is not an invitation to a contest. Being second is just fine. In fact, with a concerted effort, it’s possible the industry can get down to third or even, maybe, fifth.)

The “complaints against debt collectors” data point – whether it’s from the 2011 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book or the 2010 edition or, even, the 2012 report when it’s published in February of 2013 – does a lot of heavy lifting in the mainstream press. It is used to suggest that the entire collection industry is rife with abuse, that it is filled with players who refuse to obey the rules, and that more legislation and government oversight is needed to set things back in order.

But what if that isn’t the case? What if the actual data, rather than the 180,000+ number, reveal an interesting truth about the collection industry? What if things aren’t as dire as they seem?

insideARM.com, through Freedom of Information Act requests and interviews with staff at the FTC, wanted to see if there was another story to be told with those complaint numbers. The result: the Q1 2012 FTC Debt Collection Complaints Compendium.

When insideARM.com first began thinking about a report on the FTC’s debt collection data, an early assumption would be that we’d see maybe three or four companies with the preponderance of the complaints. “These are the bad apples everyone is talking about,” we’d be able to say. But, at least in the first quarter, it seems clear: companies willing to identify themselves to consumers, and willing to participate in conferences, and willing to function within the boundaries of the law as much as possible are not who is generating the bulk of consumer complaints. It’s the rogue agencies who are casting the longest shadow across compliance abuse.

This report contains analyzed complaints data for the first calendar quarter of 2012. You’ll find a chart that lists the Top 100 Collection Agencies by number of complaints. They are identified by type – Collection Agency, Debt Buyer, Creditor, etc. – and by geographic area – Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South, West, etc. You’ll also find an appendix of content published on our site as part of our Big Issue series regarding complaints.

The report is now on sale in our bookstore: http://www.insidearm.com/store/all-products/ftc-complaints-compendium.html

Below, you’ll find the table of contents:

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Major Talking Points/Takeaways – Q1 2012 FTC Complaint Compendium
  • An Overview of the Q1 FTC Debt Collection Complaint Data
  • Observations: Q1 2012 Data and “Company Name” Reported by Consumers
  • The Top 100 Most Complained About Debt Collection Companies by Number of Complaints
  • The Top 25 Most Complained About Companies Have Near-Six Sigma Performance
  • Company Responses to the Ranked List
  • From Complaints to Report: The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book
  • Exploring the CFPB’s Debt Collection Complaint Resolution System
  • CFPB Begins Naming Names in Complaints Against Credit Card Issuers
  • Are Debt Buyers Overrepresented in FTC Complaints Against Collectors?
  • Better For Whom? Debt Collection Professionals and the Better Business Bureau

Appendices

  • Appendix A: Complaint Data Fields
  • Appendix B: Related Content from insideARM.com

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