TALLAHASSEE — Responding to criticism over inactivity on 4,400 state complaints against debt collectors, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink proposed separate measures Tuesday to rein in abusive tactics.
The gubernatorial rivals' dueling announcements — coming less than 30 minutes apart — further inflamed a weeklong feud that began after the Orlando Sentinel exposed serious cracks in the system designed to protect consumers.
The analysis found McCollum's office did little to address 4,400 complaints received this year. His office blamed Sink, even though her office doesn't oversee the Office of Financial Regulation, which licenses the collectors. The fight served as a precursor to the governor's race between Sink, a Democrat, and McCollum, a Republican.
Sink declared her support for four reforms that would make it easier to investigate, punish and track problematic debt collectors.
"We do need to put more teeth in the laws," Sink said in an interview. "We need some new legislation to prevent these debt collectors from harassing our citizens."
Less than 30 minutes later, McCollum's office issued a statement asking the Legislature for more power to file civil lawsuits against the aggressive debt collectors. In a letter to House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater, McCollum proposed an initiative to make some tactics an inherent violation of the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
"I'd like to have the law changed so it's easier to prove," McCollum said at a news conference. "So if my office wants to, we can go to court and shut down those debt collectors."
McCollum said his office formed a task force to look at each complaint and work with the financial regulation office.