Associations of debt collectors try to curb abuses in the collections industry
By Connie Prater
- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act spells out consumer rights.
- Credit and debt collection industry put out their own ethical guidelines on how to deal with debtors.
- Violators can be thrown out of the trade association.
How do you know when a debt collector has gone too far? What can you do about it?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act spells out consumers’ rights when dealing with debt collectors. In addition, members of the credit and debt collection industry have taken steps to police themselves when interacting with consumers.
ACA International, the largest trade group of credit and debt collection industry professionals, adopted a set of ethical guidelines member agencies must follow when collecting debts. The code of ethics requires debt collectors to:
• Treat consumers with consideration and respect.
• Communicate with consumers with honesty and integrity.
• Suspend collection activities upon receipt of a written request from the consumer for verification of the debt.
• Conduct a reasonable investigation to verify the debt, identify the person obligated to pay the debt and the accuracy of the information provided to the debt collector.
• Not threaten to initiate legal action on debts that are beyond the statute of limitations.
• Not engage in dishonest, fraudulent or deceitful conduct or misrepresent themselves.
• Not harass, threaten or coerce people.
• Not engage in dishonorable, unethical or unprofessional conduct that may deceive, harm or defraud consumers or the public.
• Use reasonable efforts to safeguard the confidentiality, integrity and availability of consumer information.
Members found to violate the rules may be suspended or expelled from the trade association, according to Rozanne Andersen, ACA’s general counsel. She says the group expels about 12 of its 3,500 members a year for violations. To file a complaint about a creditor or debt collector’s conduct, contact ACA.
Debt Buyers Association (DBA) International, a smaller trade group of agencies that buy and re-sell debt, also has a code of ethics governing its members.
See related: “Consumer credit woes mean boom in debt collection,” “Know your rights: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,” “10 tips for dealing with debt collection, collectors,” “Blog: I’m not a deadbeat, but I play one on my cell phone,” “Blog: Debt collector calling…and e-mailing…and texting?,” Debt collection sample letters