Collector - May 2018 - 48
ACA Responds to Misleading ACLU Report
on Debt Collection Industry
Association sets the record straight about the ACLU's misguided attempt to undermine
the commitment and integrity of the professional debt collection industry.
By Maria Wolvin
n late February, the American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) released a
misguided and heavily misleading
report accusing private debt collectors
of using the criminal justice system to
"punish" and "terrorize" consumers.
This is absolutely false and undermines
the commitment and integrity of the
professional debt collection industry.
Legitimate debt collectors work with
consumers to help recover outstanding
debt on behalf of businesses, nonprofit
organizations and governmental entities.
Furthermore, despite the ACLU's claim that
debt collectors are responsible for sending
consumers to prison, the truth is clear:
debt collectors cannot put consumers in
jail because they have not paid a debt and
debt collectors are prohibited by law from
threatening a consumer with arrest.
Put simply, the ACLU's harrowing
characterization of modern-day debtor's
prisons, while certainly disturbing, does
First, contrary to the allegations contained
in "A Pound of Flesh: The Criminalization of
Private Debt," debt collectors are governed
by myriad federal, state and local laws
and regulations regarding debt collection,
and professional debt collectors take their
compliance obligations very seriously.
Indeed, the accounts receivable
management industry is unique because
it is one of the few industries in which
Congress enacted a specific statute, the Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act, governing all
manner of communications with consumers
when recovering payments.
Second, debt collectors do not advocate
for, nor can they cause, a consumer to
be arrested or jailed for an outstanding
debt. Like any other civil court case, only
a judge, at his or her sole discretion,
can issue an arrest warrant that calls for
jail time, and-even then- only when
an individual has been ruled to be in
contempt of court for failing to respond
to a court order. Thus, it is a consumer's
failure to comply with a court order, not
his or her failure to pay a debt, which
results in potential jail time.
Even consumer resources make clear that
consumers cannot go to jail for failure to pay
a debt. For example, according to Debt.com,
a consumer financial education website:
"Whether it's a loan, a credit card, your
mortgage, a payday loan-it doesn't matter.
No collection on any consumer debt will
end in jail time. It just doesn't happen.
You cannot be detained, jailed, forced into