Friday, May 17, 2013

Does Reporting Collection Agencies to the Better Business Bureau Do Any Good?

The Better Business Bureau takes more complaints on collection agencies than almost any other business category. Last year, the BBB received over 15,000 complaints from consumers regarding debt collectors and their behavior. So its no surprise that the BBB has quite a few articles posted on how consumers can successfully deal with debt collectors

How to Report a Collection Agency to the Better Business Bureau

Filing a complaint with the BBB against a debt collector is relatively simple. Visit the Better Business Bureau's website at Select your region of the country and select the online complaint form. Fill out the complaint form to the best of your ability. Include any actions debt collectors from the company in question have taken that are illegal. For example, any of the following complaints can be included in your BBB report:

  • Calling you in the middle of the night or at other odd hours
  • Contacting you after you've sent a cease and desist letter
  • Using foul or vulgar language on the phone
  • Calling your repeatedly, dozens of times a day
  • Informing others, such as your family members or employer, about your debt

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Any violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act can be included in your BBB report. You must include your name and contact information when submitting your complaint. The BBB does not accept anonymous complaints.

Will the Better Business Bureau Do Anything About Collection Agency Complaints? 

The Better Business bureau will process your complaint and send a copy of the complaint to the collection agency. The collection agency then has the opportunity to address the complaint and resolve the issue. In most cases, this doesn't happen. Collection agencies are notoriously cavalier about their customer relations. They know their reputation is mud just by being a collector. Thus, it benefits the company very little – if at all – to bother with BBB complaints.

If the collection agency answers the complaint, it may propose a solution which the BBB will then pass on to you. Most likely, however, it will merely forward the BBB copies of documents "proving" that the collector is right and you are wrong. Since few collection agencies have proper and thorough documentation of consumers' debts, the documents forwarded will likely be the same bogus documents collectors like to try and validate debts with. You know, those computer printouts with your name and debt on them:? This doesn't prove anything and certainly doesn't serve as a sufficient counter to your claim that the company broke the law.

Will Your BBB Complaint Hurt the Collection Agency's Rating? 

If the collection agency is a BBB accredited business and does not adequately address and resolve your complaint then yes, your report will hurt the company's rating. But, knowing how their very existence is infuriating to most consumers, few collection agencies bother to seek accreditation with the BBB. Those that do are taking a big risk. Nobody sends in a positive report to the BBB about a collection agency's performance except, perhaps, the creditor.

Should I Bother Filing a BBB Complaint Against a Collection Agency?

If the likelihood that the collection agency will even respond to your complaint is low, should you even bother filing one? Yes! Some of the larger collection agencies are accredited with the BBB. This is for the benefit of creditors who may consider hiring them. Accredited business have to respond to your complaint or risk damaging their BBB rating. In addition, if the proposed resolution doesn't satisfy you (and it won't) the company must go through mediation.

Accredited businesses recieve three free mediations, but consumers have to pay for these services. Most consumers who file complaints that reach this point, don't want to fork over the cash for mediation with the company and give up the complaint. The BBB then considers the situation "resolved" and sides in the company's favor. After all, it did everything it was supposed to do, right?

How Much Does BBB Mediation Cost? 

From what I can tell, mediation for accredited members is roughly $1500 and $3000 for non-accredited members. The consumer is supposed to pay at least half of this, plus $250 an hour for the mediator. This reeks of  a scam. Few consumers have that kind of money lying around to force a BBB-accredited business to do what's right and, in this case, follow the law. That doesn't mean you shouldn't file a complaint and keep a record of doing so. It's just one more bullet in your collection agency arsenal.

I'd love to hear from people who have filed BBB complaints against debt collectors and how those complaints panned out. Have you gone through this process? What happened? Was the collection agency accredited? Did it respond? What solution did the collector propose? Leave your stories in the comments section.


  1. I'd say file with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau- free online to do along with your state's atty general.

    I had an issue with American Express calling excessively about a late bill. This was them calling, not a collection agency so it wouldn't meet Fair Debt Collection PRactices Act violation. I asked AMEX to quit calling and it did no good until I filed with CFPB. Within a few days the calls stopped.

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