In collaboration with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) this week released the 2020 annual report to Congress on the administration of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Officials said the report highlights efforts by the CFPB and the FTC to protect consumers, particularly those who have suffered profound financial impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They added the CFPB and the FTC — along with state and federal partners — accomplished much toward stopping unlawful debt collection practices and continuing their vigorous law enforcement, consumer education and public outreach and policy initiatives.

Last year, the CFPB recapped that it engaged in four public enforcement actions, arising from alleged FDCPA violations. The CFPB resolved two of these cases. The two judgments ordered nearly $15.2 million in consumer redress and $80,000 in civil money penalties. Two cases remain in active litigation.

Among other highlights, the report notes the following CFPB accomplishments:

— Identified several issues that raise the risk of consumer harm during the COVID-19 pandemic through its supervisory prioritized assessments

— Published content to help consumers financially navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, including on debt collection, that has been accessed by users approximately 4.3 million times;

— Provided consumer debt collection educational materials, including, “Ask CFPB,” an interactive online consumer education tool that logged 1.9 million pageviews and/or downloads in English and 220,000 in Spanish for its debt collection questions;

— Released a report highlighting servicemembers’ complaint data from 2019

— Published information about debt collection activity during the pandemic for student loans

— Published results of a quantitative online survey of over 8,000 respondents to test several versions of disclosures to support the understanding of time-barred debt and revival that informed the CFPB’s final rules on debt collection.

Meanwhile over at the FTC, among the actions taken to combat unfair, deceptive, and otherwise unlawful debt collection practices in 2020, the regulator mentioned:

— Led Operation Corrupt Collector, a nationwide federal and state law enforcement sweep and outreach initiative targeting phantom debt collection and abusive and threatening debt collection practices

— Filed or resolved seven cases against 39 defendants, and obtained $26 million in judgments

— Brought the first federal action combatting unlawful “debt parking”

— Banned the operator of a debt collection scheme who engaged in serious and repeated violations of law from ever working in debt collection again;

— Deployed educational materials to inform consumers about their rights, and educate debt collectors about their responsibilities, under the FDCPA and FTC Act

— Supplied 15,755 copies of a fotonovela (a novel) on debt collection, developed for Spanish speakers, to raise awareness about scams targeting the Latino community

The CFPB and the FTC share authority to enforce the FDCPA, and continue to work closely to coordinate efforts to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, and abusive debt collection practices. The two agencies reauthorized a permanent memorandum of understanding in February 2019 that facilitates consultation in rulemaking, enables coordination in enforcement, sharing of supervisory information and consumer complaints and collaboration on consumer education.

The complete report can be downloaded here.