The bureau’s analysis of nearly half a million complaints has revealed challenges within the credit reporting space. ACA International is following this topic closely and will continue to report ongoing issues.
01/04/2022 2:25 P.M.
3.5 minute read
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, under the leadership of Director Rohit Chopra, has released a new annual report on consumer complaint responses by the nationwide credit reporting agencies (CRAs).
“TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian routinely top the list of complaints submitted by consumers,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “We will be exploring new rules to ensure that they are following the law, rather than cutting corners to fuel their profit model.”
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the CFPB is required to submit an annual report about complaints submitted by consumers regarding the nationwide CRAs.
Consumers submitted more than 488,000 complaints to the CFPB regarding the CRAs from October 2021 through September 2022.
The findings follow closely with last year’s report that detailed failures by the CRAs when responding to consumer complaints. Since the 2021 report, the CFPB found Equifax, Experian and TransUnion have:
- Changed how they respond to complaints: The three CRAs’ use of problematic response types described in last year’s report has declined. Most complaints now receive more substantive responses.
- Provided more tailored complaint responses: Across all three companies, most responses now describe the outcomes of consumers’ complaints. In September 2022, the CRAs provided a tailored response to more than 50% of complaints that were closed with an explanation or relief.
- Reported greater rates of relief in response to complaints: In 2022, TransUnion reported providing relief in most complaints. Experian reported providing relief in nearly half of complaints. Equifax reported that it did not provide relief, but its written complaint responses suggest that its rates of relief are comparable to the other two companies.
The CFPB also recommends that Equifax, Experian and TransUnion “consider the consumer burden when implementing automated processes” that relates to a legal right a consumer must make, “recognize that technology is also improving for consumers,” and “consider how to transition the market from control and surveillance to consumer participation,” according to the report.
The CFPB notes in the report that the CRAs are submitting more substantive responses to complaints, including describing the outcome of consumers’ complaints. It also notes changes to the credit reporting market over the past year, including changes to medical debt credit reporting.
Effective July 1, 2022, the CRAs announced they will no longer include medical debt that was paid after it was sent to collections on consumer credit reports.
“As a result of these changes, the CFPB estimates a majority of individual medical collections tradelines will be removed from credit reports,” it states in the report on CRA complaints.
However, the CFPB’s report on CRA complaints also states inaccurate information on credit reports continues to be an issue for consumers, and that “they report first learning about purported debts—such as medical bills—by reviewing their report.”
In the first half of 2023, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will also no longer include medical collection debt under at least $500 on credit reports.
Given that consumers report learning about debts, such as medical bills, on their credit report, setting an arbitrary threshold—and removing a vital communication tool—to not include medical debt in a consumer credit portfolio is a slippery slope to risky lending for creditors. It could ultimately harm consumers by reducing access to credit or medical services and increasing costs.
ACA International is engaged in discussion with the credit bureaus and policymakers on this issue and will continue to advocate for positions that do not negatively impact the debt collection industry, creditors and consumers.
ACA is following Chopra’s plans in the medical debt collection space, and we expect the agency may continue to move forward in this area, particularly after the National Consumer Law Center proposed a petition for rulemaking on medical debt, ACA’s lobbyist and shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck Leah Dempsey reports in the latest issue of Collector magazine.
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