Unable to fix that error on your credit report? You’re not alone. Consumers report that they spend time, energy, and money to try to correct inaccuracies to no avail.
A new analysis by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that in 2021, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, collectively provided assistance to less than 2 percent of consumers who reported credit report errors to the agency, according to a January 2022 report.
For comparison, in 2019, the three major credit bureaus provided relief in nearly 25 percent of all complaints to the CFPB.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to conduct a review of complaints sent to them through the CFPB when consumers allege there is incomplete or inaccurate information in their consumer reports and the consumer previously attempted to fix the problem with the credit bureaus directly.
The credit bureaus must then report their findings for these complaints to the CFPB. But according to the CFPB, the credit bureaus responded to these complaints less than 2 percent of the time.
- Equifax most often promised to open investigations and send the results to the consumers at later dates, but failed to provide the CFPB with the outcomes of the investigations.
- TransUnion made similar promises and frequently failed to provide the outcomes of investigations to the CFPB. It often stated it would take no action on complaints because it believed the complaints were submitted by third parties.
- For many complaints, Experian frequently stated it would take no action because it believed the complaints were submitted by third parties, however, it did respond to the remaining complaints with substantive responses.
Overall, consumers describe feeling frustrated and stressed when the nationwide consumer reporting companies’ automated processes for correcting inaccuracies do not work or when they do not get responses to their concerns.
This is concerning given that more than 200 million Americans have credit files, according to the CFPB. Lenders rely on this information to decide whether to approve forms of credit such as credit cards and loans and on what terms (including your interest rate).
Beyond financial services, consumer credit reports are also used to make decisions about employment, insurance, housing, and even essential utilities.
For consumers, inaccuracies on a credit report are not just an inconvenience – incorrect information on your credit report can drive up the cost of credit and severely limit opportunities, such as starting a small business or buying a new home.
“America’s credit reporting oligopoly has little incentive to treat consumers fairly when their credit reports have errors,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. This “report is further evidence of the serious harms stemming from their faulty financial surveillance business model.”
CFPB Finds Less Than 2% Credit Report Errors Remedied
From January 2020 through September 2021, consumers submitted more than 700,000 complaints to the CFPB regarding Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Of those complaints, more than 50 percent were related to credit report errors that had not been remedied, the CFPB found.
According to the CFPB, consumers submit more complaints about inaccurate information on their credit and consumer reports than about any other problem. Of those who reported inaccurate information on their credit report, a majority assert that they were a victim of identity theft.
Still, these errors are largely left unremedied, as the CFPB found the three credit bureaus often failed to provide substantive responses regarding the credit report errors, especially when the complaints were reportedly sent in by third parties. As a result, many consumers did not receive meaningful responses to complaints submitted through the CFPB complaint process.
But as the CFPB noted, consumers have the ability to authorize third-party representatives to submit credit report errors and complaints on their behalf, which is why the CFPB says
Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion failed to meet statutory obligations.
Other key findings from the CFPB’s report include:
- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion relied heavily on template complaint responses instead of providing meaningful and thorough responses to consumers, despite having up to 60 calendar days to respond.
- Beginning in early 2020, Experian and TransUnion stopped providing substantive responses to consumers’ complaints if they suspected that a third party was involved in submitting a complaint.
- In many instances, Equifax and TransUnion promised to investigate but failed to provide the outcomes of their investigations to the CFPB and instead stated that they would forward the complaints to their “dispute channel.”