Based in Texas, Expert Global Solutions and its subsidiaries-ALW Sourcing, LLC; NCO Financial Systems, Inc.; and Transworld Systems, Inc., (which also does business as North Shore Agency, Inc.), collectively are the largest debt collector in the world. They employ more than 32,000 employees and have at times generated revenues in excess of $1.2 billion. The United States is not the only place the companies operate in; they also operate in Canada, Barbados, India, Philippines and Panama.
The FTC charged the companies with violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the FTC Act by using tactics such as calling consumers multiple times per day, calling consumers even after being asked to stop, calling consumers early in the morning or late at night. The companies were also charged with calling consumers' workplaces despite them knowing that the employers prohibited such calls. The companies would leave phone messages that disclosed not only the debtors' names, but also the nature of the debt to third parties. The FTC complaint further charges that the companies would pursue debtors even though the debtors had previously informed them that they do not owe the debt. The FTC charges that the companies made no effort to verify the debts consumers denied owing; instead they would continue their aggressive collection efforts.
Under the proposed settlement order, should a consumer dispute the validity or the amount of a debt, the companies must either close the account or end collection efforts. The companies must suspend collection until they have conducted a reasonable investigation and verified that their information about the debt is not only accurate, but also complete. The proposed settlement order also imposes restrictions as to when it is appropriate for the companies to leave voicemails that disclose the alleged debtor's name and stating that he or she may have an outstanding debt.
Furthermore, the proposed settlement order goes on to state that the companies must stop falsely representing that they will not call a number to collect a debt; not harass, oppress or abuse a consumer while attempting to collect a debt; they cannot communicate with third parties about a debtor's debt; they cannot communicate with a consumer at his or her workplace if it is clearly inconvenient or prohibited by the consumer's employer (there are limited circumstances); cease communications if a consumer has requested no further contact or if a consumer refuses to pay a debt; and not violate any provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Beginning one year after the date of the order, the companies are required to record at least 75 percent of all their debt collection calls and they must retain the recordings for 90 days after they are made. Expert Global Solutions settled the FTC charges and has agreed to pay $3.2 million in civil penalties, the largest settlement ever obtained by the FTC against a third party debt collector.
Consumers can help the Federal Trade Commission prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices by visiting the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or calling 1-877-382-4357.