On January 5, 2022, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued its annual report (“Annual Report”) of credit and consumer reporting complaints.
Historically, the CFPB issued its annual report on the Fair Credit Reporting Act in its Consumer Response Annual Report. This year, however, the CFPB chose to issue a standalone report based on the sheer volume of complaints lodged against the three major nationwide consumer reporting agencies (“NCRAs”) from January 2020 to September 2021. Strikingly, consumers submitted more than 700,000 complaints about the NCRAs. This staggering number represented more than 50% of all complaints received by the CFPB in 2020 and more than 60% in 2021.
Relying heavily on an impressive array of data, the Annual Report criticizes the NCRAs for their responses – or lack thereof – to consumer’s complaints. The Annual Report focuses significantly on the NCRAs recent changes in their response processes, including the use of template responses, which the CFPB concluded offered no real meaningful response. The CFPB also noted the NCRAs are incorrectly closing the bulk of complaints because of “suspected third-party involvement.” While the Annual Report acknowledges there is FTC guidance (and some case law) which supports the NCRA’s position that it need not investigate a dispute initiated by a third party, the CFPB’s position is that FTC guidance does not apply to complaints transmitted by the CFPB. The Annual Report concludes, “The NCRAs’ responses to these complaints raise serious questions about whether they are unable – or unwilling – to comply with the law.” Annual Report, p. 4.
Leaving little doubt about the CFPB’s focus on the NCRAs, the press release announcing the publication of the Annual Report contained this strong statement from CFPB Director Chopra: “America’s credit reporting oligopoly has little incentive to treat consumers fairly when their credit reports have errors. Today’s report is further evidence of the serious harms stemming from their faulty financial surveillance business model.”
A copy of the Annual Report can be found here.