Consumer complaints to CFPB hit another record; credit report problems top the list
Top 10 complaints
Complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) hit another record in 2021, led by issues with credit reports.
Analyzing CFPB complaints is one of the ways that U.S. PIRG Education Fund keeps a pulse on issues consumers are most concerned about.
Complaints filed with the CFPB’s Public Consumer Complaint Database hit 496,028 in 2021, an increase of nearly 12% from 2020.
The No. 1 complaint was “Incorrect information on your credit report,” representing one-third of the complaints, or 165,136 complaints.
The No. 2 issue was directly related: “Problem with a credit reporting company’s investigation into an existing problem,” with 109,758 complaints, or 22% of the total.
It’s troubling that 55 percent of complaints concerned erroneous information on people’s credit reports or their unsuccessful attempts to resolve the mistakes.
Credit reports are a key part of Americans’ financial identity, whether they like it or not or consent to their information being collected or not. Information on credit reports drives decisions on whether someone is approved for a loan or credit card, the interest rate of loans and credit cards, whether a tenant is approved to rent a house or apartment, the premiums paid on auto or homeowners’ insurance and even whether someone is offered a job.
Consumers are strongly encouraged to get copies of their credit reports regularly from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. By law, consumers are entitled to a free copy once a year from each of the bureaus. Through April 20, you’re entitled to one free copy each week from each bureau, because of pandemic legislation passed by Congress. Go to annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
Credit reports were also the topic of the No. 4 complaint – “Improper use of your report.”
The other big bucket for complaints: debt collection. The No. 3 issue was “attempts to collect debt not owed,” with 39,009 complaints. The No. 6 and No. 10 complaints concerned “written notification about debt” and “took or threatened to take negative or legal action” on a debt.
Other issues among the top 10 complaints concerned checking or savings accounts, trouble when making a mortgage payment, a problem with a purchase on a credit card statement and struggling to pay a mortgage.
Complaints to the CFPB have been climbing for years. Besides last year’s nearly 500,000 complaints, the 2020 total – 444,551 complaints — represented a 60 percent increase from the 277,366 complaints in 2019.
Because complaints involving credit reports always top the list, here are a few resources to help you:
Your credit report is a long document, and confusing to many. Here’s a guide on where to look to quickly find mistakes or information most likely to hurt your credit score.
Easy-to-understand tips to walk you through freezing and thawing your credit files.
22 ways to protect yourself from identity theft, fraud and headaches
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Ed oversees U.S. PIRG’s federal consumer program, helping to lead national efforts to improve consumer credit reporting laws, identity theft protections, product safety regulations and more. Ed is co-founder and continuing leader of the coalition, Americans For Financial Reform, which fought for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, including as its centerpiece the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He was awarded the Consumer Federation of America's Esther Peterson Consumer Service Award in 2006, Privacy International's Brandeis Award in 2003, and numerous annual "Top Lobbyist" awards from The Hill and other outlets. Ed lives in Virginia, and on weekends he enjoys biking with friends on the many local bicycle trails.