Consumers may soon have greater protection against collectors - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Consumers may soon have greater protection against collectors

(WTOL) - As more Americans fall behind on bill payments, more are receiving collection calls. At the same time, more people are filing complaints against the industry and those complaints are being heard.

The Federal Trade Commission received 140,036 complaints against debt collectors in 2010. That's up 17 percent from 2009.

Dick Eppstein with the Better Business Bureau says it also gets hundreds of complaints

"They'll say the guy keeps bothering them, he keeps calling them. They've told him 'I don't owe the money, and he won't listen,'" Eppstein said. "The major criticism is they won't reveal what the debt is, or they won't prove that somebody owes the money."

Starting next month, a new regulator, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will begin to share policing duty with the FTC.

The bureau will also have authority to update regulations, left largely unchanged since 1977, well before collectors had tools like social networking, cell phones, and e-mail available to them.

"I suspect one of the things we'll see is an update to these laws that make it clearer what a violation is," Eppstein said.

Under current rules collectors are not allowed to harass you. They can only call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and can't call you at work if you tell them not to.         

Every collector must send a written validation notice telling you how much and to whom you owe money within five days of first contact. You can also send a certified letter telling the collector to stop contact. 

If you are having an issue with a collection agency, contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at 800-282-0515, the Michigan Attorney General's Office at 877-765-8388, or the Federal Trade Commission at  1-877-FTC-HELP.

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