Feds hit debt collector with millions in fines for abusive calls

A debt collection agency that federal regulators accused of harassing and abusing people who owe money has agreed to pay a $3.2 million civil penalty and stop practices such as calling debtors multiple times a day, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday.

The financial penalty levied on the company, Expert Global Solutions, which is the world's largest debt collection agency, is the largest ever obtained by the FTC against a third-party debt collector.

Expert Global Solutions, on its website, says it is a holding company for a leading accounts receivable management company.

"The companies called many times a day, and for weeks on end," Colleen Tressler, a consumer education specialist with the FTC, wrote in a blog post.

"They called after being asked to stop; after they promised to stop; early in the morning; late at night; at people's workplaces - when they knew the employers prohibited the calls," Tressler wrote.

In addition to the financial penalty, Expert Global must end abusive practices and suspend or end collection efforts if a debtor disputes what is owed. It can resume collection efforts after establishing that the debt is accurate, the FTC said.

The company must also record at least 75 percent of all collection calls and keep them for 90 days, the FTC said.

According to the FTC, the Texas-based company and its subsidiaries has more than 32,000 employees and logged revenues of more than $1.2 billion in 2011. The companies operate in Canada, Barbados, India, the Philippines and Panama as well as the United States.