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According to new analysis from the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, thousands of consumers with errors on their credit reports are getting relief through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The report also found that credit reporting agencies vary widely in how they respond to consumer complaints: Equifax responded to over half with relief, while Experian responded with relief to only 5 percent.
The report used data collected by the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaints Database, which was created to help consumers resolve problems with their credit reports. The report compared complaints against the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), commonly referred to as credit bureaus, who were together responsible for 96 percent of all complaints about credit reporting.
“The CFPB is providing aggrieved consumers with the opportunity to demand a response from credit reporting agencies and get real relief,” said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “The nationwide credit reporting agencies effectively function as gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunity, and the CFPB’s public database holds them accountable to a high standard of accuracy.”
The report, Big Credit Bureaus, Big Mistakes: The CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database Gets Real Results for Victims of Credit Reporting Errors, is the third in a series of reports by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund that analyze the complaints in the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaint Database, which accepts complaints relating to a variety of financial products and services. The CFPB has accepted complaints about credit reporting since October 2012.
Numerous studies by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and a 2013 study by the Federal Trade Commission have found that millions of Americans have serious errors on their credit reports. These errors can severely inhibit a consumer’s ability to get an affordable loan, rent an apartment, or even find a job.
Some key findings:
- The ‘big three’ nationwide credit reporting agencies (NCRAs) — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian — varied widely in how they responded to complaints. Equifax responded to 63 percent of its complaints with non-monetary relief, while Experian did so in only 5 percent of cases and TransUnion in 22 percent. Equifax provided monetary or non-monetary relief nearly three times as often as TransUnion and more than 10 times as often as Experian.
- The most complained-about credit reporting agency nationwide is Experian, followed by Equifax and TransUnion.
- By far, the most common problem was incorrect information on a credit report, which accounted for 65 percent of complaints.
- The CFPB has helped enable nearly 3,000 consumers, or 30 percent of total complainants, to receive relief such as fixing incorrect information on a credit report or refunding service charges or fees related to credit reporting.
- Consumers disputed the companies’ responses to about 18 percent of all complaints.
The “big three” NCRAs collect, centralize, and aggregate consumers’ financial information. They source this information from public record databases of bankruptcies as well as from creditors and other “furnishers,” who forward consumer bill payment history and other credit information to them voluntarily.
In general, monetary relief is most likely due to complaints about add-on credit monitoring subscription products and non-monetary relief most likely involves corrections to credit reports.
The report also highlights several changes the CFPB should make in order to improve the accessibility and usefulness of its database, such as adding details about the consumer’s specific problem and how it was resolved. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund also urged the CFPB to order the credit bureaus to comply with the law’s accuracy and dispute reinvestigation standards.
The Arizona PIRG Education Fund encouraged consumers to check their credit reports regularly and follow up quickly if there are errors. “Since consumers can’t ‘shop around’ for their credit report, the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaints Database is an invaluable tool to hold credit reporting agencies accountable,” Brown added.
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