Georgia struggles to protect residents from debt collectors

(The Center Square) — Georgia’s consumer protections against debt collectors are among the worst in the nation.

That’s according to a new report from the National Consumer Law Center, which gave The Peach state an “F” for its protections.

The group’s “No Fresh Start” report looks at states’ “exemption laws” protecting income and property from seizure by creditors, debt buyers and debt collectors. According to the group, Georgia laws allow debt collectors and creditors to seize nearly all of a resident’s possessions.

“According to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, debt issues were among the top five complaints into the Department of Law in 2021,” said Liz Coyle, executive director of Georgia Watch. “Hundreds of thousands of Georgians rely on multiple forms of debt to ensure their families have access to basic needs. We need to ensure a financial emergency does not send them spiraling.

Spokeswomen for Carr and Lt. Governor Burt Jones declined to comment on the report, while a trio of spokesmen for Gov. Brian Kemp did not respond to a request for comment.

“Georgia is one of the top four states for personal bankruptcy filings, 67% above the national average,” the group said in a new policy paper, “Helping Georgians Manage Garnishment Actions.”

“In 2019, the Administrative Office of the Courts of Georgia tracked 59,560 garnishment case filings—an increase of over 10,000 since 2016,” the group noted. “Now, with the unprecedented challenges mounted on Georgians from the pandemic, more protections against garnishment are vital to ensure their financial stability.”

The Peach State did not meet the five basic standards the report analyzed. The standards include preventing creditors from seizing a debtor’s wages to leave the debtor a living wage and preventing the seizure and sale of a debtor’s “necessary” household goods.

By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor

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