An article recently published in the Orlando Sentinel detailed an increase in complaints to state agencies in the last 18 months about collection agents who, in violation of state law, use obscenities and racial slurs and threaten everything from jail to physical harm.
This growing problem in the Sunshine State has prompted Florida’s leading contenders for governor to finally offer new measures to help protect consumers and rein abusive debt collection practices..
The state’s Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said she would call upon state lawmakers to increase the options available to the Office of Financial Regulation.
The State Attorney General Bill McCollum said he would ask legislators to revise Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act to include certain tactics debt collectors use, such as posing as legal authorities.
Both state regulators agree that they must work together with the Legislature to find better ways to protect consumers from bad debt collectors.
“There are clear, common sense changes that are needed to better protect Florida’s consumers against these abusive debt collector practices,” Sink said in a statement.
The attorney general’s office has agreed to start forwarding complaints to the Office of Financial Regulation.
Since the published report, both Sink and McCollum have promised to push the state’s lawmakers to strengthen regulation.
Sink is calling for reforms that will make it easier for Floridians to report these unlawful practices and allow the state to more aggressively penalize these unscrupulous debt collectors, including: Reducing the number of complaints needed to refer an abusive collector to the State Attorney or Attorney General, and eliminating a time period required, as opposed to the current requirement of five complaints in one year.
She is also wants to implement stronger penalties against abusive or non-responsive debt collectors, such as imposing higher fines and cease and desist orders.