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The CFPB is now taking your credit bureau complaints

By Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Excellent news! The CFPB is now taking your complaints about credit bureaus and credit reports. Click here to go to the CFPB credit bureau complaint page. And unlike the FTC, the CFPB has been given powerful tools so that it will be able to "help consumers with individual-level complaint assistance on issues with their credit report."  That means, you'll get a response. The CFPB has helpfully listed some of these "issues" in its own blog post, although most consumers can probably guess them based on their own experiences with these sloppy, self-appointed gatekeepers to financial and employment advancement. Here is what the CFPB says:

The types of complaints we can work on include:

  • Incorrect information on a credit report
  • A consumer reporting agency’s investigation
  • Improper use of a credit report,
  • Being unable to get a copy of a credit score or file, and
  • Problems with credit monitoring or identify protection services.

Here are my own briefly annotated additional comments:

Incorrect information on a credit report: This could mean your report is missing information that could help you, contains information about your own accounts that is wrong and could hurt you because it is wrong, duplicated or incomplete or not up-to-date, or, worse, contains information about someone else's late payments or someone else's bankruptcies or tax liens. Someone else's information mixed onto your report is usually highly negative/derogatory and drags down your credit score.

A consumer reporting agency’s investigation:  The CFPB is being a little too kind here. It should have said "A CRA's investigation or its lack of a competent re-investigation of your dispute." My very first report on credit bureaus failing to adequately investigate consumer disputes came out 21 years ago this month, the week of Halloween, and it was called "Nightmare on Credit Street." Not much has changed.

Improper use of a credit report: By law, credit reports can only be used for permissible purposes, but, hey, the credit bureaus don't always check out their customers. Just this month, the FTC ordered the behemoth credit bureau Equifax to disgorge $393,000 in illegal profits garnered by selling credit reports to a firm that used them for impermissible purposes.

Being unable to get a copy of a credit score or file:  You have rights to view your credit report. You have rights to obtain your credit score (not included in your credit report) in several circumstances. Enforcing your rights is often a problem. Let the CFPB know.

Problems with credit monitoring or identity protection services. These are junky overpriced add-on products. The CFPB recently "slammed" two  big credit card companies, Capital One and Discover, for deceptive marketing of credit monitoring and debt cancelation products. Conversely, in 2005 and 2007, the FTC merely "lightly slapped" the behemoth credit bureau Experian for its own deceptive marketing of credit monitoring. The FTC was certainly under weak management at that time, but also, it has never had the "guns, lots of guns" that Congress gave the CFPB to protect consumers with. Expect that the CFPB will pummel any credit bureau that deceptively markets free credit report or identity theft subscription services, especially because the CFPB also recently gained the authority to supervise or look inside the credit bureaus whenever it needs to or wants to.

So, credit reporting is now one of six key financial areas that the CFPB wants to hear your complaints about. The others are home mortgages, auto loans, bank accounts, credit cards and student loans. Get with the program and let the CFPB know whether or not a credit bureau has ever failed to conduct a proper reinvestigation, ignored the documentation of your dispute, failed to answer the phone, tricked you into buying useless credit monitoring or identity theft products, or otherwise failed to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Repeating from my last blog entry "Tips on fixing credit report errors:" If you want more information on credit bureau errors and why they are so difficult to correct, check out the 2009 report "Automated Injustice," by the consumer lawyers at the National Consumer Law Center. Our 2004 PIRG report, "Mistakes Do Happen," documented that one-in-four credit reports contain errors serious enough to cause you to be denied credit, insurance or a job, or pay more than you should.

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