Overall complaint volume handled by the CFPB up 54% from prior year
Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provided to Congress the Consumer Response Annual Report for 2020. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the consumer financial marketplace is reflected in the increase of complaints submitted to the CFPB. The CFPB handled approximately 542,300 complaints last year—a nearly 54% increase over the approximately 352,400 complaints handled in 2019.
“The pandemic has been among the most disruptive long-term events we will see in our lifetimes,” said CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio. “Not surprisingly, the shockwaves it sent across the planet were felt deeply in the consumer financial marketplace. Consumer complaints provide the CFPB with an important real-time window into where consumers encounter problems in the marketplace. The CFPB expects companies to respond to these concerns and that consumers receive responses from companies that address the issues consumers raise in their complaints.”
The report reflects issues consumers reported to the CFPB in 2020 as influenced by numerous factors including changing market conditions. The report includes analyses of complaints across multiple consumer financial products and services.
Throughout the pandemic, the CFPB has monitored the pandemic-related problems and issues reported by consumers, shared complaint information with federal and state agencies, and published complaints in the public Consumer Complaint Database.
According to the CFPB report:
- Credit and consumer reporting complaints accounted for more than 58% of complaints received, followed by debt collection (15%), credit card (7%), checking or savings (6%), and mortgage complaints (5%).
- Beginning in April 2020, consumers began to submit more than 3,000 complaints mentioning coronavirus keywords nearly every month. Consumers submitted approximately 32,100 complaints mentioning coronavirus or related keywords in 2020. Absence of coronavirus as a keyword in a complaint does not necessarily mean the complaint was not related to the financial impact of the pandemic.
- Consumers from Florida submitted more complaints per capita than consumers from any other state (309 complaints submitted per 100,000 in population).
- The CFPB received 40,800 complaints from self-identified servicemembers, veterans, and military families.
This report also highlights multi-year complaint trends that pre-date the pandemic, as well as how companies have responded to complaints. The report shows that:
- The CFPB received more complaints from consumers about inaccurate information on their credit and consumer reports in 2020 than in 2019.
- Consumers primarily submitted these complaints about the three largest Nationwide Credit Reporting Agencies (NCRAs): Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- 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 NCRAs 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 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.
The CFPB will issue a separate report later this year regarding complaints submitted about the NCRAs that are related to incomplete or inaccurate information on the consumers’ credit reports in keeping with its reporting requirements under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The 2020 annual report can be found here: 2020 Consumer Response annual report
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