I recently signed up with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) so they can send me consumer complaints and our company will be required to respond to them. Seems like a good idea, right? But what exactly is the definition of a complaint?
Turns out, any “statement of dissatisfaction” is a complaint, legitimate or not. The CFPB is requiring all third-party debt collection companies to register with them as part of their new authority to regulate this industry under the 2010 Dodd-Frank act. You remember the Dodd-Frank act? It was enacted after the financial “crisis” with all those banks and insurance companies that were “too big to fail” needed bailed out by the American taxpayers to keep the economy from tanking. (Seemed to have worked well, didn’t it?)
Any consumer can “complain” about anything we do or don’t do, and we are going to be required to respond or they will indicate in our published public rating we are a non-responsive company. And if you are non-responsive enough, or the complaint allegations are egregious enough, they will send an investigator to find out why we are treating those consumers so badly.
In the past five years, about a dozen complaints have been lodged against our company with the Oregon Attorney General’s office. They range from “their process server embarrassed me by dropping papers at my neighbor’s house” (wasn’t our company, wasn’t our process server, wasn’t our lawsuit, wasn’t even our debtor!) to “they refuse to take this off my credit report and I can’t buy a house” (wasn’t us reporting it, and it was a title report not a credit report). Anyone can accuse us of anything, and we are required to respond or else we are guilty.
What I would really like to know is; when is our industry going to have a place we can lodge complaints for harassment and abuse by consumers? Southern staff members treat all consumer with respect and dignity. Period. They may not like the consequences that occur due to their choices and actions that lead up to us getting involved, but we are in no way rude to people, like some are to us. Where do we go to tell regulators about nasty people who swear and threaten us? Who steps in and protects our employees (who are consumers as well, by the way) when a debtor who files bankruptcy walks into our office and demands we give him some paperwork while using some of the foulest language not allowed on television? Then threatens a staff member?
This doesn’t happen frequently, but it happens to us and not the other way around! Can we call the police? Sure, and they will do what exactly? Since we have called the police in the past, I can assure you the answer is “very little” or “next to nothing”. If we do half what this person did, we get a lawyer suing us for tens of thousands of dollars, bad press, a client wanting to fire us, the Attorney General, FTC and CFPB sending us forms demanding we answer for this illegal and awful conduct. Someone treats a bill collector like garbage, and what we hear are crickets from the regulators, police, and public.
Is it okay to expect people to pay their just bills? Isn’t it part and parcel of our economic system that people who make promises to pay for something they have received, and have the ability to pay, should be held accountable for that promise? We can do it in a respectful manner, why can’t others be held to the same standard? Next time a “complaint” is filed with the Attorney General or CFPB against our company, maybe I should ask that question.