Dental Collections + Patient Complaints – Why Partnerships Matter!
This past July, in their ongoing effort to promote transparency and consumer protection in the financial services industry, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) began accepting and documenting all consumer complaints made against collectors – including dental debt collection agencies. And for the first time since being collected, this data is now available to the public in the Bureau’s Consumer Complaint Database.
Released earlier this month, the data provides valuable insight into the issues consumers are having with debt collectors, by offering a complete breakdown of over 5,000 consumer complaints made against creditors, collection agencies, and debt buyers.
Each individual complaint is categorized by type of debt (medical, student loan, credit card etc.), complaint issue, company, company response, and a number of other filters. The screenshot below shows how each complaint is displayed in the database and provides a few examples of the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors.
So what are the most common complaints consumers have about debt collectors?
Of the 5,329 documented complaints in the CFPB’s database, almost 40% of them were from consumers who were contacted about debts they did not owe. Either the debt had already been paid, did not belong to the consumer, was discharged in bankruptcy, or the debt resulted from identity theft.
About 20% of consumer complaints were over the communication tactics used by the collector in pursuit of the debt. Here are a few examples of communication tactics that resulted in a complaint:
- Frequent or repeated calls
- Called outside of 8am-9pm
- Used obscene, profane, or other abusive language
- Threatened to take legal action
A little over 18% of complaints were in regard to the disclosure/verification of the debt. This meant either the consumer did not receive notice of their right to dispute the debt, was not provided enough information to verify the debt (debt amount, name of creditor etc.), or the collector failed to disclose that the communication was an attempt to collect a debt.
The remaining consumer complaints came as a result of a collector either:
- Making false statements or misrepresenting themselves
- Improperly contacting a consumer or sharing a consumer’s information
- Taking or threatening to take an illegal action
What can dentists learn from the CFPB’s complaint data?
The CFPB’s complaint data sheds light on the types of actions that are getting debt collectors into trouble. As a dentist or dental office manager, it is crucial, especially in today’s collection environment, to align yourself with a dental collections agency you can trust. With consumer protection and the patient experience now at the forefront of collection compliance, you simply cannot afford to partner with a collection agency that doesn’t follow the rules.
Make sure the dental collections agency you hire has effective skip tracing and patient identification processes in place so that you can feel confident your collectors are contacting the right patients. Also don’t forget to make sure collectors are disclosing all the proper information (that they are attempting to collect a debt)
and taking steps to ensure they are following best practices to verify the identity of those they are attempting to contact. In addition, it’s important to know your dental debt collection agency partner responds promptly and professionally to review and resolve any patient complaints filed with the CFPB.
Here are some other important questions to ask when evaluating your dental collections partner:
- What are your collection techniques?
- How do you confirm the identity of patients before pursuing the debt?
- How are collectors monitored?
- Do you require that collectors be trained on collection industry laws like the FDCPA and the TCPA?
- What complaint resolution processes do you have in place?
- How do I know you will treat my patients in the same manner I would?
These are just a few questions to ask to help you make the right decision when selecting a dental collections partner. And remember to take note of the most common complaints consumers make against debt collectors and make sure your dental collections partner isn’t making any similar mistakes. The CFPB is cracking down on consumer protection, and the patient experience has never been more important to successful debt recovery. But by avoiding the common violations listed above and partnering with a dental debt collection agency that values the dentist-patient relationship, you can be well on your way to minimizing not only your dental practice’s bad debt, but the number of patient complaints as well.
YOUR TURN: What are you currently doing to ensure your dental collections partner is minimizing patient complaints and remaining compliant with industry regulations? Are the most common consumer complaints regarding debt collectors what you expected? If not, what surprised you? We want to hear from you!