The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report (2022 CFPB Report) on January 3, 2023, detailing information and trends related to how nationwide consumer reporting agencies (NCRAs) responded to consumer complaints from October 2021 to September 2022.
Under Section 611(e)(3) of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), NCRAs, including Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, are required to review certain consumer complaints about incomplete or inaccurate information that are originally sent to the CFPB and report on the outcomes of these reviews to the CFPB. In January of 2022, the CFPB published a report (2021 CFPB Report) that found, in most instances, the NCRAs did not satisfy their FCRA obligations. The 2022 CFPB Report follows up on the 2021 CFPB Report, identifying ways the NCRAs improved in 2022 but also areas of concern for the future.
The 2022 CFPB Report notes that NCRAs are taking a more in-depth approach to addressing consumer complaints, likely resulting in higher levels of complaint resolution. The 2022 CFPB Report highlights several areas of improvement for the NCRAs, including:
- Increasing the use of tailored responses to consumer complaints to address consumers’ specific circumstances. The report notes that, in September 2022, more than 50% of the NCRAs’ responses to consumer complaints were tailored and included an explanation of the outcome of the complaint or relief for the consumer.
- Increasing the average response time to consumer complaints in 2022 to reach levels like before 2020.
- Increasing the percentage of complaints that resulted in relief for the consumer.
Although the 2022 CFPB Report details ways NCRAs have improved their response to consumer complaints, the report also notes several areas of concern for NCRAs and other industry stakeholders, including:
- Whether the NCRAs’ reliance on automation shifts too much of the burden to consumers. In the 2022 CFPB Report, the CFPB identifies concerns with automated consumer complaint systems shifting the burden of information and document gathering from the NCRAs to consumers.
- Whether the NCRAs’ use of technology harms consumers. The 2022 CFPB Report notes that the NCRAs have utilized an automatic screening process that blocked complaints it determined were sent by a third party based on the generic language in the complaint, even though it is likely a portion of the complaints were not from third parties.
- The lack of consumer control over their own data. The 2022 CFPB Report indicates concern over the increasing number of consumer complaints and the difficulty consumers have with resolving issues with their credit reports.
The CFPB has again demonstrated a commitment to monitoring credit reporting agencies under the FCRA, as well as the broader credit reporting ecosystem. Additionally, the 2022 CFPB Report calls on policymakers and stakeholders to address the issues identified in the report, setting the stage for potential changes and reforms to the credit reporting industry, particularly as it relates to how technology is utilized. The 2022 CFPB Report emphasizes that the Bureau will continue to seek to improve the consumer’s ability to access credit