It’s time I address a repeating criticism of this site. The claim is frequently made that somehow I am against the debt relief industry or I target it for bad publicity. The reality is nothing could be further from the truth than those statements or beliefs.
“But Steve, all you say are bad things.” Well that’s not quite true. I’m eager to praise important moments and I’ve not only had good things to say now and then but I even have an open door policy and invitation for guest posts of good things others want to share.
I live every day to help people struggle with bad debt and find good solutions that allow them to solve problems and set off on a path for a better life.
What I absolutely don’t do is scheme and plan how to fool people into buying something for financial gain. I never want to sell someone something just to make the sale. My belief is that good debt relief providers feel a strong fiduciary duty to always try to do the right thing for the consumer in trouble.
Their are good people in the debt relief world that feel I’m too harsh and critical. I hear you and I understand. But for far too long the debt relief world has done nothing to police themselves against bad actors and bad players in the debt relief industry.
I’ve said it before but the debt relief industry of recent past has been infiltrated by opportunists, scammers, ripoff artists, and even organized crime. And by not speaking up we’ve all allowed that to happen.
Even in my days of running a credit counseling agency I was often asked about measurements and data to support the good work we did. At the time I frankly could not see or understand how important reporting performance data was and still is. I was wrong, it is of critical importance.
Today only a few companies debt settlement or credit counseling groups publicly disclose their performance numbers. Members of the AACC have committed to do so and that’s why I recommend them to consumers.
On the credit counseling side I can think of no other nonprofit group that has embraced openness and transparency as much as Cambridge Credit Counseling has. See this recent article, Cambridge Credit Counseling Releases Latest Performance Report.
Without performance numbers to stand behind it is frankly impossible to differentiate good companies from any other player. Ultimately having a few good testimonials is not enough to convince me of the true value of a company.
The ultimate measurement of the quality of a debt relief company is how much value in good service and professional intervention they provide the consumer. To coin a UK phrase, “value for money” must be of paramount importance.
In the future the top rated debt relief groups will be measured by the highest value they bring to consumers at the lowest price. Good companies should focus on collecting and supporting metrics to report publicly.
But price alone should not be the limiting factor. A bunch of low priced companies that don’t deliver exceptional service doesn’t do anybody any good. A higher priced debt relief provider that delivers exceptional service, great consumer support, professional intervention and great verifiable metrics should be allowed to thrive and rewarded for that effort.
Any company, credit counseling or not, should not be hesitant about contacting Christopher Viale at Cambridge Credit Counseling (firstname.lastname@example.org) and talk to him about data gathering and measurement. Christopher will be happy to be open, honest, and sharing about his efforts at data collection and being brave to be open.
Okay, so I didn’t have that dream but I do have a dream where the debt relief industry unites to reward companies of any tax status that strive to do the right thing for the consumer first. A world where credit counselors and debt settlers can come together and work for the benefit of the consumer and represent the consumer above all others. Where all branches of debt relief can work collaboratively to put the person in trouble first.
But to borrow from Dr. King, let me say:
But fifty years later, the credit counselor is still is not free. Fifty years later, the life of the credit counselor is still sadly crippled by the manacles of creditors and the chains of control. Fifty years later, the credit counselor lives on a lonely island of modern poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. Fifty years later, the credit counselor is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the credit counseling community must not lead us to a distrust of all debt settlement people, for many of our debt settlement brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
I have a dream.
I truly want the U.S. debt relief industry to be a global example of how companies can do good things, make a good living, and help good people deal with bad money troubles.
But until we can mend fences between credit counseling and debt settlement, and bring those groups together under one label called debt relief, and until we can squeeze out the bad actors of any tax status, the debt relief field will not get the respect or admiration from the general public and regulators that it is capable of achieving.
Lasting freedom in debt relief will come from doing good things and doing the right thing. Until that day happens, I’m going to keep on doing what I do. I’ll praise the good when I find it and I’ll confront the bad.
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