CFPB Report Hints at Possible Debt Collection Focus

At the end of May 2018, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released an analysis of consumer debt collection complaints highlighting several issues that often arise in those complaints.  In light of Acting Director Mulvaney’s comment in his January 2018 staff memo that debt collection complaints made up the majority of complaints received by the CFPB, the report potentially hints at future areas of focus for the CFPB.

After providing complaint statistics by product and by state, the CFPB’s recent report turns its focus to debt collection complaints.  It notes that the Bureau received over 400,000 debt collection complaints since July 2011, or 27% of the total number of complaints received.  Among the types of debt collection issues identified in the report are complaints about (1) unknown debts appearing on credit reports; (2) debts about which consumers had received no prior written notice; (3) debt collection communications; and (4) threats to take legal actions.

The CFPB’s recent report mirrors a comment made by Acting Director Mulvaney in his January 2018 staff memo.  There, he seemed to call into question two of the Bureau’s prior focal points—prepaid cards and payday lending—by noting that only 0.9% and 2.0%, respectively, of consumer complaints related to those issues, while around a third related to debt collection.  He added “[d]ata like that should, and will, guide our actions.”  The CFPB’s recent report may well be a first step toward responding to that data.  All of this suggests that the Bureau’s efforts in the enforcement, regulatory, and supervisory contexts may increasingly focus on debt collection activities, and industry participants who conduct such activities should remain watchful.

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