Created in July 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been a welcome advocate for consumers wronged by businesses and financial institutions. In its short lifetime, the agency has fielded 1.5 million consumer complaints, publishing just fewer than 1.2 million of them in a convenient searchable form. The CFPB commands attention, as 97% of complaints sent to the CFPB get timely responses from the companies involved.
The CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database logs in all consumer complaints sent to the CFPB, including the nature of the complaint and the products and companies involved. Since 2015, the CFPB shows the same businesses holding the top three spots in complaints generated – the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
Equifax has topped the complaint list from 2015 through 2018. Experian came in second and Transunion came in third during the same period (except for 2017, when they traded places).
During 2018, the three credit reporting agencies accounted for just over one-third of the more than 257,000 complaints published by the CFPB. Equifax fielded 30,060 complaints in 2018, followed by Experian's 29,921 complaints, and TransUnion's 28,352 complaints. TransUnion, the credit reporting agency with the least complaints lodged against it, had more than three times as many complaints as fourth-place J.P. Morgan Chase (8,905 complaints).
After the three credit reporting agencies, the next five highest complaint values come from America's largest banks and credit card issuers. After J.P. Morgan Chase, the next four in the top ten list are Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Capital One, and Citibank. The student loan servicer Navient and Synchrony Financial round out the top ten.
In 2018, there were 111,650 complaints related to credit reporting, credit repair services, and other personal consumer reports – 43% of all complaints and over twice as many as the next most category (debt collection). Credit reporting complaints have steadily risen as a percentage of CFPB complaints, shooting up from 13% in 2013 to 43% in 2018. Debt collection complaints have risen slightly over the past five years while mortgage complaints are on the decline.
What's the biggest credit reporting complaint? Incorrect information on credit reports accounted for 61% of credit reporting complaints – a substantial percentage, driven at least in part by the 2017 Equifax data breach that affected over 145 million consumers.
It's not surprising that credit reporting agencies top the complaint list. The odds of problems increase since they handle data on every American with a credit file – and credit reporting errors can happen in multiple ways. Errors include bad information from reporting creditors, data entry errors, and events credited to the wrong person – either accidentally or through identity theft. Recent data breaches increased the likelihood of bad information reaching your credit report.
It's important to check your credit report often for errors, and immediately address any issues that you find. Simple errors can drop your credit score and force you to pay higher interest rates for credit – or you may be denied credit entirely. Each credit reporting agency produces its own report, so your three reports might not contain all the same information. Therefore, it's important to obtain a copy of each and review it on a regular basis. You can see your three credit reports today as part of a free MoneyTips trial.
Errors related to identity theft can leave long lasting damage. Thieves can establish fake accounts, max them out, and refuse to pay the bills. Without regular credit report checks, you may not realize your identity has been stolen until you receive collection notices. By then, your credit has been ruined.
Don't forget about the CFPB as you try to repair the damage. Let them assist you, as they have done for thousands of consumers in their nearly decade-long existence. You may not prevail, but you have a better chance than if you took on large corporations by yourself.
Protect your credit – protect your identity – protect yourself with a free MoneyTips trial.