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CFPB Complaint Report on COVID-19 Responses Shows Debt Collection is Not a Top Concern


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Complaints about debt collection during the pandemic decline as accounts receivable management industry professionals continue to work to help consumers.

5/26/2020 11:30

A report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tracking consumers’ experiences with financial products and services, especially related to the COVID-19 pandemic, shows most complaints center on mortgages and credit cards.

Debt collectors continue to help consumers manage their payments and provide resources on hardship programs and provide solutions that fit with their financial situation.

ACA International’s members also continue to receive positive feedback from consumers, such as:

  • “It's hard to work with a collections agency. But the company I work with goes above and beyond in customer service. The debt collector was very friendly and professional.”
  • “A consumer said everyone she has spoken to has been nice and behaves like “real people”. Everyone has been understanding of the situation.”
  • A consumer, Julia, also recently shared her experience working with a member firm and how one of their agents, Michelle, stepped up to help her manage her bills and finances so she could buy a home.

These stories help ACA advocate on behalf of the industry to ensure collection programs remain in place. (For more details on how to share your stories click here.)

Complaint Bulletin Highlights

According to a news release from the CFPB, “in April and May, the bureau received historically higher complaints, however, complaints mentioning COVID-related terms amounted to a total of 4,500 complaints during those two months.”

The Complaint Bulletin with data on complaints with keywords such as COVID, coronavirus, pandemic, or CARES Act as of May 11, shows debt collection received 12% of complaints associated with COVID-19, compared to 22% for mortgages and 19% for credit cards.

The bulletin also highlights changes in overall complaint volume before and after the declaration of the national emergency, which occurred on March 8.

Additional highlights in the bulletin include:

  • The bureau also received its highest complaint volumes in its history in March and April at 36,700 and 42,500, respectively. In 2019, the monthly average for complaints was 29,000. The bulletin attributes the higher numbers to factors such as market conditions and more public awareness of the complaint system.
  • Among mortgage complaints that mention coronavirus keywords, 59% of consumers identified struggling to pay the mortgage as the issue.
  • Among credit card complaints that mention coronavirus keywords, 19% of consumers identified problem with a purchase shown on their statement as the issue.
  • Comparing the weekly average complaint volume before and after the emergency declaration, shows that prepaid card complaints saw the greatest percent increase and student loan complaints saw the greatest percent decrease. Many consumers received their unemployment benefits via prepaid cards—this contributed to the increase in prepaid card complaints. Protections for student borrowers provided by the CARES Act may have contributed to the decline in student loan complaints.
  • The CFPB’s comparison of complaints and financial products and services eight weeks before the president declared a national emergency on March 8, 2020, and eight weeks after shows debt collection complaints declined slightly.

View the complete bulletin here.

ACA also continues to advocate with the CFPB to ensure accurate data about the industry is documented in the database through providing context to the complaints and sound verification processes.

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