Romola and Catlin: Putting context around debt collection complaint data

Authors: Terry Catlin, Thomas F. Romola - March 20, 2017 - Updated: March 19, 2017

Credit cards by Sean Macentee under Creative Commons 2.0 license.
Credit cards by Sean Macentee under Creative Commons 2.0 license.

The debt collection industry serves a vital role in America’s credit based economy. The industry is filled with hard working Americans that interact with millions of consumers regarding the most sensitive of issues, their finances.

As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman released the top complaints submitted to the state’s Consumer Protection Section. The Colorado Statesman reported that “debt collection companies accounted for 977 of the calls last year, including complaints about harassment and disputes over amounts and whether a debt is actually owed.” These numbers are presented with shockingly little context to provide any real basis for comparison or understanding.

Of the total 8,707 complaints received by Colorado’s Consumer Protection Section, debt collection complaints account for only 11 percent of the overall complaints. Furthermore, those 977 complaints represent only 0.01 percent of Colorado’s total population. Overall, these complaints represent a remarkably small percentage of the population and can be interpreted as debt collectors operating in Colorado effectively and mindfully demonstrating their commitment to compliance.

The collection industry is made up of highly trained professionals who are skilled at amicably resolving accounts and helping to restore consumers’ financial good standing. Debt collection agencies serve a wide variety of clients including: hospitals, libraries, lawn services, local governments, utilities, retail and nonprofits as well as small and large financial institutions. They provide specialized expertise and experience to recover money necessary for their clients’ survival.

Debt collectors have a tough job. They are talking with consumers about often sensitive and emotional financial situations. In many cases, debt collectors are a consumer’s best chance of quickly resolving a dispute with the original creditor. Collectors want to be a part of the solution. They have an incentive to work with consumers to resolve issues and find mutually beneficial arrangements or payment plans to help consumers resolve their debts.

Colorado’s licensed debt collectors operate respectfully and strive for compliance with all federal, state and local laws and agree that bad actors should be held accountable for their actions. These legitimately operating agencies should not be lumped in with scam artists or criticized with data that is taken out of context.

Terry Catlin

Terry Catlin is president of the Associated Collection Agencies of Colorado/Wyoming/New Mexico.

Thomas F. Romola

Thomas F. Romola is the legislative chairman for the Associated Collection Agencies of Colorado/Wyoming/New Mexico.

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