Can AI make debt collection smarter and easier?

Over the past decade, as banks have effectively outsourced debt collection to third parties, this corner of the financial world has slid into an abyss of harassing phone calls, shoddy recordkeeping and wrongful collections. This is reflected in the latest data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s complaint database. Since the database was opened to the public in June 2012, Americans have aired more grievances about collections than about any other aspect of their financial lives. As of June, the CFPB had received 316,810 complaints about debt collection. The most common objection? “Continued attempts to collect debt not owed,” cited by 39% of filers. (The second-largest topic of complaints is mortgages, at 272,153.) The CFPB has said it plans to hold banks and other first-party creditors responsible for accuracy of their consumer debt data even after it’s sold to third parties, which may accelerate the trend for lenders to bring debt collection back under their roof. Banks historically sold distressed consumer debt to agencies, but that process was rife with problems. In August 2014, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued guidance that dramatically reduced the pace of sell-offs. Since then, banks have primarily only outsourced the collection…

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