Finding Common Ground
Staffers from the FTC’s East Central Regional Office, based in Cleveland, Ohio, recently met in Pittsburgh with legal services attorneys, consumer advocates, the PA Office of the Attorney General, the US Attorney’s Office, and other federal agencies. Participants came from throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.
For the past two years, other FTC regional offices have held similar Common Ground Conferences as part of the FTC’s Legal Services Collaboration. In virtually all the meetings, the hot topics have been mortgage-related scams and debt collection practices, as well as how meeting participants could work together to reach the most vulnerable consumers. We heard, for instance, about attorneys and nonprofit housing advocates working together to negotiate ways for consumers to get out from under burdensome mortgages.
As always, the true value of the day came from the opportunity to talk with colleagues who do similar work, but from different vantage points. We were able to learn from some very experienced consumer advocates in private practice. Participants also found out about creative approaches in other states or jurisdictions — for example, some courts allow summonses in debt collection cases to include information about free resources to help people get out of debt.
We formed alliances to better help vulnerable consumers, and took away ideas to implement in our communities. Both in our regional offices and across the country, FTC staff hopes to build on these relationships and continue collaborating with consumer advocates, legal services, and law enforcement to protect the nation’s consumers.