Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More Collectors Working with Debt Settlement Companies

by Teresa Dodson (Inside Arm)

In the recent Debt Settlement survey, over 53% of the ARM industry company respondents indicated that they were now working with debt settlement companies to increase their collections. While this number appears to demonstrate a clear adoption of this channel by the industry, wanted to know why roughly half of the collection industry was still not utilizing debt settlement companies to improve recoveries.

Reasons Provided for not Working with Debt Settlement Companies

When asked to provide the reason or reasons why they did not currently work with debt settlement compa­nies, respondents gave the following justifications.


Settlement Percentages too low

Legal concerns about dealing with third parties

Security/Compliance Concerns

Industry Perceived as not reputable

Prohibited by agency agreement with creditor

Limited resources to dedicate to this channel

Break rates too high

Too hard to locate and manage multiple debt settlement providers

Not enough knowledge of the industry to make this channel effective


The top three reasons given for not working with the debt settlement industry are related to the economics of the settlements derived through this channel, as well as the specific security, compliance, and legal concerns regarding sharing data with debt settlement companies. Given the largest group of companies that answered NO to working with the industry were collections agencies, who many times work on contingency agreements with thin margins, this would seem logical.


Ironically, reputational credibility of the industry registered only the fourth highest out of nine possible rea­sons provided, indicating that collectors and creditors may now be warming up to the idea of a regulated debt settlement industry.

The last group of reasons provided primarily dealt with a lack of understanding of the industry as a whole, and inability to effectively locate and manage a large group of debt settlement companies or a specific lack of inter­nal resources in order to effectively develop a strategy or manage a strategy in order to leverage this industry as an effective collections channel.

With increasing regulatory scrutiny of the debt collection industry by the FTC and the newly formed CFPB, it is no wonder that collectors today place a greater emphasis on risk controls in favor of increased profits. Clearly consumers enrolled in debt settlement programs are motivated to settle their accounts, and many times have money saved and available in a trust account for this purpose; however, agencies and buyers alike, conscious of the laws and regulations relating to data security, privacy, and third-party communications, have yet to fully embrace an industry which, to date, has not been held to the same standards of PCI compliance, data security, privacy regulations, and the FDCPA.

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