Consumer complaints shattered records in 2020

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COLORADO — This week is National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), and to kick off the week, data was released on Monday.

According to a new report from the CoPIRG Foundation, consumer complaints about problems with financial companies such as banks, credit bureaus, and debt collectors rose by more than 50%. They set new records for each month of the year. The report analyzed complaints received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The number one problem in Colorado for 2020 was incorrect information on a credit report. More than half of total complaints to the CFPB were grievances against the Big 3 credit reporting agencies: the firms Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Overall, the number of complaints about credit reporting doubled in 2020.

“Mistakes in credit reports lead to lower credit scores and denial of credit, housing or employment, but under President Trump, the CFPB gave the credit bureaus a free pass from handling consumer disputes in a timely manner,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG Foundation executive director. “That hands-off approach couldn’t have happened at a worse time. It exacerbated family finance problems during a pandemic that had already left many consumers teetering on the edge of financial ruin.”

Attorney-General Philip Weiser said the state had almost 24% more complaints than last year due to the pandemic.

“CFPB is such an important tool because it helps people have the full information of what is going out there and it’s a great way to hold financial firms accountable and ensure that their top priority should be servicing the consumers and ensuring that we have a fair and open marketplace,” Katz said.  

The report recommends numerous remedies to Congress and the CFPB, including three key steps to take immediately: mitigating the financial harms posed by the COVID-19 pandemic; rescinding the actions the Trump administration took to weaken CFPB rules against predatory payday lending, and rolling back Trump-era rules that allow debt collectors to harass debtors and other consumers. 

“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,” said Gideon Weissman, Frontier Group analyst and report co-author. “Americans who share their stories are telling us exactly what kinds of help they need, and the CFPB would do well to start listening and responding.”

Currently, the CFPB has an acting director, Dave Uejio, while President Joe Biden’s nominee Rohit Chopra awaits confirmation.

“Dave Uejio has acted swiftly to get the CFPB back on track to protecting consumers,” concluded Katz. “The next step is Senate confirmation of Rohit Chopra to direct the Bureau. Chopra helped build the CFPB from the start, and he is the right person Americans need in the driver’s seat.”

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