Unfair, Abusive, and Unlawful: Protecting Debtors and Society from Unrestrained Bank Account Garnishment

November 1, 2022

In the span of a generation, consumer credit has reshaped the financial lives of millions of Americans.  Today, some seventy million Americans have a debt in collections, and creditors file millions of actions annually to secure repayment of these loans.  Despite the rapid expansion of consumer debt, the Consumer Credit Protection Act, the only federal law limiting garnishment, has not been updated since its enactment in 1968.  Moreover, courts have narrowly construed its provisions to permit creditors to empty a debtor’s bank account to repay a delinquent debt.

To afford debtors the basic protections of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, this Note argues that courts should enforce its provisions to protect wages deposited into a bank account.  Alternatively, considering the dramatic expansion of consumer credit and debt collection, this Note argues that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should engage in rulemaking to prohibit the unrestrained garnishment of bank accounts as an unfair and abusive practice.  These federal interventions are critical in shielding debtors and their families from destitution and in protecting the public from the onerous social costs of unrestrained debt collection.

November 2022

No. 2