Advocacy Attends Credit and Collection Conference in Nashville
By Jennifer Smith, Assistant Chief Counsel
ACA International, the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, is the comprehensive trade association that brings together third-party collection agencies, law firms, asset buying companies, creditors and vendor affiliates. ACA establishes ethical standards, produces a wide variety of products, services and publications, and articulates the value of the credit and collection industry to businesses, policymakers and consumers.
In July 2018, ACA held its Convention and Expo in Nashville, Tennessee. I attended the conference and learned about the latest challenges for the credit and collection industry. For example, the industry is facing challenges contacting debtors because of developments in technology that actively block calls to consumers, class action lawsuits under the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act and issues of revoked consent. There were also discussions about the use of artificial intelligence in debt collecting, collecting medical debt and the best way to utilize new forms of communication like email, text messaging and chat.
In addition, Leah Dempsey, ACA’s Vice President and Senior Counsel, Federal Advocacy, arranged a small business outreach meeting for me so that I could hear from ACA’s small business members. The attendees talked about some of the problems that they have meeting debt validation requirements since the information is dependent upon records that are provided by a party, such as a doctor’s office. They also discussed the costs associated with licensing and problems with the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s (BCFP) complaint board. They stated that although the complaint board is supposed to be voluntary, the small business owners asserted that it is not really voluntary. If a debt collector does not participate in the program, the complaint will go directly to the debt collector’s client and the business could lose the client without having an opportunity to address the problem.
The participants were also concerned about the fact that the BCFP has repeatedly incorrectly reported that debt collection receives the highest number of complaints without providing a perspective on the debt collection marketplace. The debt collection industry makes over a billion contacts to consumers in a year. ACA estimates that debt collection complaints account for only 0.005% of all consumer contacts made in a given year by debt collectors.
Between sessions, I visited the vendors at the conference expo. The exhibitors graciously explained their products so that I could have a better understanding of the technology and other operational instruments that are used by credit and collection professionals.
All in all, the conference was quite an educational experience. The valuable lessons that I learned there will be used when Advocacy reviews future proposed rulemakings like the BCFP’s upcoming rulemaking on debt collection.
Jennifer Smith is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy and covers banking and economic regulation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.