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7 April 2021 / Scott J. Best

A Look Back Analyzing 2020 Consumer Complaints and Litigation Statistics

As we enter the second quarter of 2021, let’s look back at some of the consumer litigation trends of this past year and begin to analyze some of the data. These trends continue to affirm some long-standing trends found in cases involving the consumer litigation filings for the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), as well as the complaints with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB).

As was the case in 2018 and 2019, the 2020 statistics for both the FDCPA and the TCPA continued their downward trajectories in year-over-year analysis1. 2020 saw a significant decrease in FDCPA suits, with a total of 6,876 suits filed down from 8,342 in 2019. That is a decrease of 17.6% from 2019, which itself saw a decrease of 7.7% from 2018. The peak in the last 10 years was 12,223 filings in 2011. Similarly, lawsuits related to the TCPA peaked in 2016 with 4,639 and have continued to decrease each year since. Last year a total of 3,302 suits filed, which represents a decrease of 3.3% over 2019 and a 44% decrease from the 2016 peak. Based on these trends, the continued increased focus on compliance in these areas has positive results.

The FCRA, unfortunately, has continued to be the reverse of the other consumer protection statutes. It is the only consumer statute that continues to see an annual rise in complaints, increasing to 5,223 complaints being filed in 2020, which is an increase of 5.3%. That follows an increase in 2019 of 8.9%. That provides some indication of where consumer litigation is headed going forward and where additional compliance actions would be warranted.

Not unexpectedly, as has been the case since its creation, CFPB complaints continued their upward trend, resulting in 53,898 complaints in 2020, the most seen to date, and an increase of 7,500 complaints from 2019. This is not unexpected as the CFPB becomes the focal federal agency for all things consumer finance-related. For January 2021, the CFPB saw an increase in complaints of 27.3% compared to January 2020. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come as more creditors and collectors reengage in the collection of their outstanding balances due as the COVID-19 pandemic recovery continues to move forward.

For the third year in a row, the US District Court Illinois Northern District – Chicago had the most suits filed (67). Other courts where there was a high volume of cases included: the California Central District Court, Western Division, Los Angeles (61); New York Eastern District Court – Brooklyn (43); Northern District of Georgia – Atlanta (42); and Eastern District of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia (27).

As we move through 2021, we will continue to monitor these trends and see what effect the COVID-19 pandemic has on filings. Will the downward trends in the FDCPA and TCPA continue? Or will there be a surge of filings that were not pursued initially because of the COVID restrictions? Perhaps the pause in collections pursued by many creditors will result in markedly fewer complaints being filed as there were fewer possible occurrences on which to bring a suit.

Should there be any significant changes, we will bring those to your attention.

For additional information and a complete 2020 summary, please click HERE

This blog is not a solicitation for business and it is not intended to constitute legal advice on specific matters, create an attorney-client relationship or be legally binding in any way.

1Gordon, Jack, “WebRecon Stats for Dec 2020 and Year in Review”, WebRecon, January 26, 2021,  https://webrecon.com/webrecon-stats-for-dec-2020-and-year-in-review/

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