On March 24, 2021, through a press release, the CFPB announced it submitted its Consumer Response Annual Report to Congress, which details the consumer complaints received by the CFPB in 2020. Spoiler Alert: complaint volumes were up. To be precise, the CFPB handled 54% more complaints in 2020 than they did in 2019. Last month, insideARM reported and explored the possible reasons for increased consumer complaints.
In the cover letter to the report, Acting Director Uejio provided an overview of the data and described new data visualization and analytics tools in the Consumer Complaint Database. Consistent with his comments in the CFPB’s Annual FDCPA Administration Report, Acting Director Uejio stated one of his “top priorities is ensuring that consumers who submit complaints receive substantive responses to the issues described in their complaints and that companies provide relief consumers deserve.”
Consistent with this statement, the CFPB explained in the report that it expects companies to provide complete, accurate, and timely responses tailored to the issues described in each consumer’s complaint, defining each as follows:
- Complete responses address the consumer's issues, describe communications with the consumer, and detail follow-up or planned follow-up actions.
- Accurate responses are those where the responses narratives and attachments support the response category selected.
- Timely responses are those provided within 15 calendar days of receipt and when a company provides a final response, if applicable, within 60 calendar days.
The CFPB's internet portal remains the primary method for consumers to submit complaints. In 2020, 89% of the 542,300 total complaints received by the CFPB were submitted through the CFPB’s website. Consumers filed the most complaints regarding credit or consumer reporting (319,300 complaints), followed by Debt Collection complaints which totaled 82,700.
From a data perspective, highlights from the report include:
- Credit and consumer reporting complaints accounted for more than 58% of complaints received, followed by debt collection (15%), credit card (7%), checking or savings (6%), and mortgage complaints (5%).
- In April 2020, consumers began to submit more than 3,000 complaints mentioning coronavirus keywords nearly every month. Consumers submitted approximately 32,100 complaints mentioning coronavirus or related keywords in 2020. The absence of coronavirus as a keyword in a complaint does not necessarily mean the complaint was not related to the pandemic's financial impact.
- Consumers from Florida submitted more complaints per capita than consumers from any other state (309 complaints submitted per 100,000 of the population).
- The CFPB received 40,800 complaints from self-identified servicemembers, veterans, and military families.
Year Over Year Trends
The report shows the following regarding multi-year complaint trends:
- The CFPB received more complaints from consumers about inaccurate information on their credit and consumer reports in 2020 than in 2019.
- Consumers primarily submitted these complaints about the three largest Nationwide Credit Reporting Agencies (NCRAs): Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- While the NCRAs typically provided substantive and comparatively detailed responses to the majority of complaints in prior years—including providing details of dispute investigations and outlining steps taken for consumers that are attempting to address identity theft—this year, the CFPB observed that the NCRAs stopped providing complete and accurate responses in many of these complaints.
- The NCRAs provided closure responses noting that a dispute would be filed on the consumer’s behalf but otherwise failed to address the issues consumers raise in their complaints.
- The NCRAs mentioned suspected third-party activity in their responses to consumers but did not detail steps taken to authenticate consumers or to address the issues raised in their complaints.
Although there is a massive amount of data to digest in this report, one thing is clear: it appears the CFPB will continue to use analytics to gain a sense of where it needs to focus to best protect consumers. Further, the CFPB has not waivered in its expectation that companies provide complete, accurate, and timely responses. As we have mentioned before, there's never a bad time to make sure processes and procedures, including those relative to processing complaints, are functioning as intended.