Here is a story in the NYT, (not my favorite paper for accurate news accounts) about the increase in collection lawsuits. While I think the story is one-sided, I do think that firms, like the one cited in the article bring this on themselves by trying to handle too many cases in a rote fashion.
This article prompted one of my favorite authors, Megan Mcardle, to do blog posts here and here on the subject of debt collectors. I posted some clarifications in the comments, some of which prompted Ms Mcardle to post updates to her blog posts. Generally I agree with much of what she said in her posts, especially regarding debt that is bought and sold numerous times.