Data Shows Second Year of Declines in Consumer Debt Collection Complaints

An emerging trend shows that debt collectors are working hard to assist consumers and help the U.S. economy.

For the second year in a row, complaints against debt collectors have dramatically decreased and debt collectors have earned a higher complaint resolution rate than the all-industry rate, according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The BBB’s new data indicates that debt collection complaints have dropped nearly 20 percent in two years.

The BBB’s 2015 Complaint and Inquiry Statistics show that complaints against debt collectors decreased 8.5 percent from 2014 to 2015. Coupled with the 11 percent decrease from 2013 to 2014, debt collectors have made great strides in improving customer service and reducing the number of complaints. Consumers complained more about: cellular telephone service and supplies; telephone communications; television – cable, CATV and satellite; and auto dealers – new cars, the report said.

According to the data, debt collectors received 19,277 consumer complaints nationwide in 2015. While there is room for continued improvement, this number represents a very small fraction of the one billion contacts made by debt collectors with consumers each year. The vast majority of contacts by debt collectors are amicable transactions that help restore consumers’ good financial standing.

In addition, when complaints do occur, they are resolved more frequently than other industries. The BBB data shows that 84 percent of complaints received by debt collectors in 2015 were resolved. In contrast, the average resolution rate for all industries surveyed by the BBB was 79 percent in 2015.

“Our industry is often subjected to unfair negative perceptions,” said Patrick J. Morris, CEO of ACA International. “Year-over-year trends such as this continue to show that debt collectors are trained financial services professionals working constantly to help consumers get back their financial footing while at the same time keeping our credit-based economy strong.”

Recovery of consumer debt by third-party debt collectors on behalf of America’s public, private, and nonprofit sectors has significant effects on our nation’s economic health. Debt collectors are essential to helping businesses that extend credit survive. Third-party debt collectors returned nearly $45 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013. That translates to an average savings of $389 for every household that did not have to pay more for goods and services to offset other consumers’ debts. In addition to the economic benefits, third-party debt collectors are engaged in their local communities as valued civic leaders, employers, volunteers, philanthropists, and taxpayers.