The FTC has sent a letter to the CFPB summarizing the FTC’s debt collection activities in 2015. The letter is intended to provide the CFPB with information for its annual report to Congress on the federal government’s FDCPA activities.
The letter includes a discussion of the FTC’s collaboration with the CFPB on two amicus briefs in cases involving FDCPA issues. One such case is Bock v. Pressler & Pressler, LLP, currently awaiting decision by the Third Circuit, in which the FTC and CFPB argued that the “meaningful attorney involvement” standard that has been applied to debt collection letters should apply equally to debt collection complaints. The other case is Franklin v. Parking Revenue Recovery Services, Inc., currently awaiting decision by the Seventh Circuit, in which the FTC and CFPB argued that an unpaid parking fee is a “debt” within the meaning of the FDCPA. The letter also reports that the FTC continues to consult with the CFPB in connection with the CFPB’s expected debt collection rulemaking.
The letter’s centerpiece is the FTC’s description of its continued “aggressive law enforcement activities” to address “new and troubling issues in debt collection.” The FTC states that in 2015, it brought or resolved 18 debt collection cases, representing the highest number in any single year. The letter describes the FTC’s November 2015 announcement of “Operation Collection Protection,” a coordinated federal-state-local enforcement initiative targeting unlawful debt collection practices. The letter discusses 12 new enforcement actions brought by the FTC in 2015 as part of Operation Collection Protection, which include actions in which the FTC partnered with the New York and Illinois Attorneys General.
In particular, the letter describes four actions against “phantom debt collectors” that the FTC initiated or resolved in 2015 and three actions against debt collectors, for allegedly using text messages, emails and phone calls to falsely threaten consumers with arrest and lawsuits, in which the FTC obtained injunctive relief in 2015. Also described in the letter are the FTC’s actions against two debt buyers in which the FTC alleged that the companies, during the course of trying to sell debt portfolios, exposed consumers’ personal information on a public website geared to members of the debt buying and collection industry.