The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau focused on debt collection requirements during the pandemic, according to this year’s report to Congress on the administration of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The bureau filed four enforcement actions in 2020 over alleged FDCPA violations. It resolved two of them, resulting in nearly $15.2 million in consumer redress and $80,000 in civil money penalties.
The CFPB received approximately 82,700 complaints about first- and third-party debt collection in 2020, an increase of approximately 10 percent from a year prior, which made it “one of the most prevalent consumer complaint topics,” the bureau said. About half of those concerned attempts to collect debt not owed, by far the largest category, followed by written notification about debt (20 percent), largely about lack of information.
Acting Director Dave Uejio’s priority while he leads the bureau is “relief for consumers facing hardship due to COVID-19 and the economic crisis,” he said in the report’s introduction. The bureau touted its educational efforts during 2020, including its “Ask CFPB” interactive online consumer education.
In 2020, the bureau published results of a quantitative online survey of over 8,000 respondents to test several versions of disclosures to support consumer understanding of time-barred debt and revival. it also conducted qualitative testing to assess consumer understanding of disclosures included in the December 18 rule. It also hosted a convention of stakeholders to discuss the current state of debt relief and options facing consumers.
It also finalized a pair of rules governing debt collection, one in October which notably allowed debt collectors to use text messages to contact consumers and one in December which covered disclosures.
The CFPB shares FDCPA enforcement authority with the Federal Trade Commission, and the two agencies reauthorized a permanent memorandum of understanding in February 2019 that facilitates consultation in rulemaking, enables coordination in enforcement, sharing of supervisory information and consumer complaints, and collaboration on consumer education.