Q&A with Bill Bartmann
Tulsa-based debt collection firm
selected for consumer award
Q: I understand CFS2 is among a handful of companies nationally to receive a 2013 Friend of the Consumer Award from the American Consumer Council, making it the only debt-collection company to ever be recognized. Tell us why.
A: The council specifically applauded us for our “commitment to helping a large segment of consumers get back on their feet through employment assistance and debt negotiation services.” Like many debt collection companies, CFS2 frequently buys debt and then attempts to collect it. But unlike most, we provide a unique array of free services to help consumers get through financial distress. We've helped several thousand nationwide.
Q: What free services do you provide?
A: CFS2 was founded on the belief that people want to make good on their promises and pay what they owe. Sometimes life gets in the way and they need a little help. CFS2 partners with our customers to negotiate with their other creditors, and provides financial counseling and financial literacy programs. We help customers sign up for the government assistance they're entitled to and help them secure medical discounts and legal aid when possible. Finally, there's no better way to turn around a financial situation than by getting a great job, so our team helps with everything from resume writing to interview coaching to career search.
Q: Debt collection agencies are infamous for harassing consumers. How is your company different?
A: Unlike some companies, we refuse to curse customers, threaten to arrest them or fraudulently sue credit card debtors using “robo-signed” false affidavits. We refuse to litigate against debtors because it's plain wrong to sue people who clearly don't have resources. We actually receive flowers, Christmas cards and thank-you letters from our customers.
Q: What does the future of the debt collection industry look like, and how will that affect consumers in Oklahoma and nationally?
A: Following the financial crisis, Congress created the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (the CFPB), which has supervisory authority over a large portion of debt collectors. Director Richard Cordray has vociferously stated the CFPB won‘t tolerate unethical actions. Consumers can look forward to greater protections when the CFPB cracks down on what Cordray calls “bad actors” in the near future. Meanwhile, I've been pressing for consumer-rights legislation in Oklahoma with a 10-point model for reform of the state's collection laws.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER