The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP or Bureau) released its Complaints Snapshot for October 2018. The 50-state snapshot illustrates complaints received by the Bureau by state between January 1, 2015 and June 30, 2018. The report primarily focuses on a high level view of trends across all products by state. However of note is that debt collection no longer holds the number one spot as the source of the most complaints.
In 2017, debt collection still accounted for 26% of the complaints (with the top issue being attempts to collect debt not owed), but the top spot went to credit or consumer reporting with 31% (with the top issue being incorrect information on consumer credit reports).
Among all categories, there was a 9% increase in average monthly complaints in 2018 versus 2017. 98% of complaints received a timely response from the company.
Below is a chart from the report that illustrates the products that saw the biggest percentage change over time. The four year trend beginning in 2015 shows the largest percentage increases in credit repair and money transfer, a steady decrease in payday loans, and fairly constant (with the exception of a one-year blip) in prepaid card and student loans.
The report breaks out the data by state. Between January 2015 and June 2018, the three big-hitter states for complaints were California (138,535), Florida (100,727), and Texas (92,530). No surprise, as these are the most populous states.
While this data is publicly available, it’s interesting to see the Bureau's analysis, as it provides a sense of what they view as priorities.
For debt collectors, this report has positive overtones. While still representing a little over a quarter of the complaints, the year-by-year comparison shows that debt collection complaints are decreasing. It’s also nice to see debt collection no longer wear the crown for the most-complained about product; the new king is credit or consumer reporting. Not surprisingly, this follows the recent trend in lawsuits (decrease in FDCPA suits, increase in FCRA suits).
Many in the ARM industry (and other industries) have for years expressed frustration with the negative impact of publicly posting largely unvetted complaint data (for instance, is it really a complaint or simply an inquiry) with little to no perspective provided. Debt collectors have also complained that they often do not receive enough information from the CFPB complaint portal to investigate each matter. For instance, the name and/or account number provided by the consumer does not match any individual in their system. Or a phone number provided does not match any phone number they have a record of having dialed.
Editor's note: insideARM hosts a Complaints Resource section which you can find here, or by clicking Topic in the main menu and selecting Complaints Resource Page. The section includes a real time feed from the BCFP complaints database, key complaints reports from the BCFP, and years of insideARM coverage of the complaints topic.