CFPB notes top issues cited in 2021 consumer debt collection complaints

Top issues raised by consumers in the some 121,700 debt collection complaints received last year by the federal consumer financial protection bureau included the debt not being theirs, problems with written notifications, and being threatened with a negative or legal action.

These are some of the data included in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) latest report to Congress on its activities under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), released Friday.

According to the report, attempts to collect a debt that the consumer reports is not owed has been the number one issue selected by consumers since the CFPB began accepting debt collection complaints in 2013.

In 2021, the bureau reported, most consumers who claimed the debt is not owed report that the debt is not their debt (48%). Specifics vary, as consumers sometimes state that they are being called about debts they do not recognize, point to attempts to collect a debt that belongs to someone else, and being in collections for services or products they did not receive. Consumers also reported that the debt resulted from identity theft (36%). In these complaints, consumers often reported that they learned about the debt after reviewing their credit report.

The second-most-common issue cited in debt collection complaints received by the bureau involve written notifications about debt. The report said most consumers who complained about written notifications (74%) reported they had not received enough information to verify the debt. These consumers often complained of notices being vague and not having sufficient information to identify the account in question; in their complaints, consumers often asked for additional information, including supporting documentation.

Complaints about taking or threatening to take a negative or legal action were the third-most-common issue complained about in 2021. Most of these complaints were about threats or suggestions that consumers’ credit histories would be damaged (52%), threats to sue on a debt that is old (17%) or being sued without proper notification of the lawsuit (11%). Other complaints related to seizures or attempts to seize property (9%), threats to arrest or jail consumers if they did not pay (5%), collection of or attempts to collect exempt funds such as child support or unemployment benefits (5%), being sued in a different state from where the consumer lives or where the consumer signed the contract (2%), or threats of deportation or turning the consumer over to immigration (less than 1%).

The majority of complaints about false statements or representations were about attempts to collect the wrong amount from the consumer (81%). In addition, consumers reported that companies impersonated an attorney or a law enforcement or government official (13%), indicated the consumer committed a crime by not paying debt (5%), or indicated that the consumer should not respond to a lawsuit (2%)

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Annual Report 2022