The world’s largest debt collection agench, Expert Global Solutions, has agreed to stop harassing consumers and will pay a $3.2 million civil penalty, the largest ever obtained by the Federal Trade Commission against a third-party debt collector.
In its complaint, the FTC charged that the Expert Global and its subsidiaries used illegal tactics such as calling consumers multiple times per day, calling even after being asked to stop, calling early in the morning or late at night, calling consumers’ workplaces despite knowing that the employers prohibited such calls, and leaving phone messages that disclosed the debtor’s name, and the existence of the debt, to third parties.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the companies also continued collection efforts without verifying the debt, even after consumers said they did not owe it, a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Helen of Bisbee, AZ, recently wrote to ConsumerAffairs about her experience with NCO.
"I do not owe any money and have no debts. This company uses an automated phone system to call me at least once a day, sometimes twice, to request from me a return call," she said. "I attempted once to do this -- to request they stop calling or an option to contact me in writing only. I only got an automated system. So I did not get anywhere."
With more than 32,000 employees and revenues in 2011 of more than $1.2 billion, the Texas-based Expert Global Solutions and its subsidiaries – ALW Sourcing, LLC; NCO Financial Systems, Inc.; and Transworld Systems, Inc., which also does business as North Shore Agency, Inc. – collectively are the largest debt collector in the world. In addition to their U.S. offices, the companies operate in Canada, Barbados, India, the Philippines, and Panama.
Must verify the debt
Under the proposed settlement, whenever a consumer disputes the validity or the amount of the debt, the defendants must either close the account and end collection efforts, or suspend collection until they have conducted a reasonable investigation and verified that their information about the debt is accurate and complete.
Juan of China, CA, is one of many consumers who've complained about NCO refusing to verify the amount of the alleged debt. Jua said he received a bill for $389.76 but had no clue what it was for.
"They proceeded to [say] you do owe this money with an angry tone and that it was from a hospital bill. I mentioned to them I received one bill only from the hospital and never an additional one. They argumentatively wanted me to accept these charges," Juan said.
"I never did receive a bill for any other charges. I had received one and has been paid for. I have proof of a zero dollar balance. They push it to the limit where I asked to speak to a supervisor and they didn't have anyone to which to speak to only other sales rep. I had also called the hospital asking if I had ever sent any bill to collection. I received a no from the accounts payable personnel named Julie."
The proposed FTC order also restricts situations in which the defendants can leave voicemails that disclose the alleged debtor’s name and the fact that he or she may owe a debt.