CFPB Complaints Shattered Records During COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On March 1, 2021, the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) released a study – “Consumers In Peril” – that reviewed the public complaint database of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and found consumer complaints about financial grievances spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020.

“The surge in complaints is a signal of the strain the pandemic put on consumers, and of the minefield of tricks and traps they face in the financial marketplace,” Gideon Weissman, Frontier Group analyst and report co-author, stated in a news release about the study, which showed 2020 eclipsed the previous complaint record set in 2019.

According to the report, there were 444,551 complaints in 2020, more than 50 percent higher than the 277,366 complaints in 2019. In 2020, each month set a complaint volume record for that month. In December 2020, the top complaint month, there were 48,558 complaints, more than double the number in December 2019.

In 2020, complaints about credit reporting accounted for the majority of all complaints. There were 282,000 complaints about the sub-product “credit reporting,” or more than double the 136,000 credit reporting complaints from 2019. Credit reporting complaints accounted for 63 percent of all complaints submitted in 2020.

The majority of credit reporting complaints were for problems with “Incorrect information on your report” and most – 141,000 – had to do with problems tagged as “information belongs to someone else.” Among complaints that credit report information belonged to someone else, more than one in five contained “identity theft.”

On April 1, 2020, the CFPB issued guidance to help data furnishers and consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in response to the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to lessen the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CFPB guidance highlighted the responsibilities of data furnishers under the CARES Act and informed CRAs and furnishers of the CFPB’s flexible supervisory and enforcement approach during this pandemic regarding compliance with the FCRA and Regulation V, regulations that protect consumer information.

By July 2020, a record number of consumers had filed complaints with the CFPB for the fifth consecutive month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, led by credit report complaints, which surged by 86 percent and accounted for 65 percent of overall complaints to the CFPB, according to analysis by U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group.

COVID-19 is a deadly respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. As of March 4, 2021, there are approximately 115 million global cases and 2.5 million global deaths, while the United States leads the world with approximately 28.7 million cases and 518,000 deaths, according to research from Johns Hopkins University.

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