The top complaint from consumers about credit cards? According to a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, consumers were most frustrated with “accuracy issues.”
To improve the situation, the Bureau suggested that credit card companies make credit scores and other consumer content freely available to consumers, as is already being done by some card companies.
About 31,000 of the 289,000 consumer complaints received by the CFPB between July 21, 2011 and February 1, 2014, or 11 percent, focused on credit reporting. Of the credit-focused complaints, 73 percent of consumers reported that incorrect information had appeared on their credit reports. One consumer found a mortgage listed on his report that would have been taken out while he was a sophomore in high school.
Other common types of complaints included frustration with credit reporting companies’ investigations of disputed information (11 percent expressed unhappiness with issues like depth and validity of the investigations) while 9 percent of the complaints were based on an inability to get a credit report or credit score.
The CFPB’s proposed solution: “[m]aking consumers’ credit scores freely available on their monthly statement or online makes it easier for them to spot problems with their credit report,” Bureau director Richard Cordray said in a statement, noting that less than one in five Americans check their credit report in any given year.
To encourage credit card companies to provide the information to consumers, Cordray sent letters to several companies “strongly encouraging” them “to make the credit scores on which you rely available to your customers regularly and freely, along with educational content to help them make use of this information.”
Cordray noted that some issuers have already introduced programs that provide such information to consumers. “We will consider this to be a ‘best practice’ in the industry,” he wrote.
In addition to Cordray’s friendly request, the Bureau also published a supervisory bulletin reminding companies that provide data to credit reporting agencies of their duty to investigate consumer disputes. “The Bureau has observed that data furnishers sometimes respond to a dispute by simply deleting the disputed accounts from the information they pass along to the credit reporting company,” the agency said, calling the practice “detrimental” to consumers as it could lead to an inaccurate credit report.
The Bureau warned data furnishers – any entity that provides consumer information to a credit reporting agency for inclusion in a consumer report – that it will continue to monitor their compliance with the investigation requirements and take supervisory or enforcement action where necessary.
To read the CFPB’s “Credit reporting complaint snapshot,” click here.
To read Cordray’s letter, click here.
To read the CFPB’s bulletin on the duty to investigate disputed information, click here.
Why it matters: In his letter to credit card companies, Cordray contended that customers “who monitor and manage their credit standing may be less likely to become delinquent or to default,” and that while consumers who are aware of their credit information are more capable of protecting themselves and to benefit from the opportunities credit can create, ultimately making them more productive members of the economy. He also noted that credit reports are a “major focus” for the Bureau, putting companies on notice of continued oversight by the agency. Any action that the CFPB “strongly encourages” entities subject to CFPB enforcement to take obviously should be carefully considered.