Bureau blames pandemic’s impact for complaint upticks

(March 26, 2021) More than a half million complaints – up 54% from the previous year – were fielded in 2020 by the CFPB, reflecting the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis, the agency said this week. In a release, the bureau said it handled 542,300 complaints last year, with well more than half of those (58%) emanating from credit and consumer reporting objections. Debt collection (15%), credit card (7%), checking or savings (6%), and mortgage complaints (5%) were other major areas of complaints, the agency said.

Starting in April 2020, the bureau said, the month after the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis became apparent, consumers began to submit more than 3,000 complaints each month mentioning “coronavirus” keywords. Ultimately, by year’s end, more than 32,000 complaints mentioning the effects of the COVID-19 disease (or related keywords) were submitted last year, the CFPB said.

Complaints received about consumer and credit reporting claiming inaccurate information on their reports, the bureau said, outdistanced the total from the year before. The CFPB said consumers mostly submitted the complaints about Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, the three largest Nationwide Credit Reporting Agencies (NCRAs).

The reporting companies, according to CFPB, provided closure responses noting that a dispute would be filed on the consumer’s behalf, but otherwise failed to address the issues consumers raise in their complaints. The bureau also said the NCRAs mentioned suspected third-party activity in their responses to consumers, but did not detail steps taken to authenticate consumers or to address the issues raised in their complaints.

While the NCRAs typically provided substantive and comparatively detailed responses to the majority of complaints in prior years—including providing details of dispute investigations and outlining steps taken for consumers that are attempting to address identity theft—this year, the CFPB observed that the NCRAs stopped providing complete and accurate responses in many of these complaints,” the agency said.

Later this year, the agency said, it will release a separate report on complaints submitted about the NCRAs that are related to incomplete or inaccurate information on the consumers’ credit reports. The report, CFPB said, will be in keeping with reporting requirements under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

CFPB 2020 Consumer Response annual report