Credit, consumer reporting led complaints in 2019, up 23% from previous year; prepaid card gripes spike

Credit or consumer reporting made up 44% of all complaints received by the federal consumer financial protection agency in 2019 – a 23% increase from the previous year and the largest number of complaints in a category, the agency said in a report released Tuesday.

Additionally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said in its Consumer Response Annual Report for 2019 that complaints about prepaid cards spiked last year, recording a 59% increase from 2018.

By contrast, student loan grievances – while only 3% of the total – saw complaints drop by 12%, the bureau said, from 2018.

Overall, the bureau said it received 352,400 complaints in 2019 (including receipt of complaint no. 2 million during the year since the agency began fielding the grievances in 2011). The credit or consumer reporting complaints accounted for 154,500; prepaid card reports, 4,100 (1.1%).

Rounding out the top five in complaints received (other than credit or consumer reporting) were:

  • Debt collection, 21% of all complaints (at 75,200 – down 8% from 2018);
  • Credit cards, 8% (29,000 – up 4%);
  • Mortgages, 8% (27,300 – down 9%);
  • Checking or savings account, 8% (26,900 – up 4%).

The CFPB said that more than four in five complaints (81%) were sent directly to companies that were the subject of the grievances for review and response. Those remaining were sent either to other regulatory agencies (14%) or were found to be incomplete (5%).

Nearly three in four of the complaints sent to companies (73%), the bureau reported, were “closed with explanation.” The bureau said that means that the steps taken by the company in response to the complaint included an explanation that was tailored to the individual consumer’s complaint. “For example,” the agency said, “this category is used if the explanation substantively meets the consumer’s desired resolution or explains why no further action will be taken.” The bureau said companies should select the “Closed with explanation” category when specific, verifiable monetary or non-monetary relief was not provided to the consumer in response to issues raised in the complaint.

Other responses included “closed with non-monetary relief” (14% of all cases; the category means “other objective and verifiable relief to the consumer as a direct result of the steps that have or will be taken in response to the complaint,” but with no money involved); “company reviewing” (5%; meaning the company was still reviewing the complaint, and no action yet taken); “closed with monetary relief” (4%; defined as “objective, measurable, and verifiable monetary relief to the consumer as a direct result of the steps that have or will be taken in response to the complaint”); and “administrative response” (meaning “further review” by the bureau is needed).

The CFPB said that in 1% of the cases, the companies involved “did not provide a timely response.”

Among the leaders of complaint categories closed with monetary relief were complaints about checking or savings accounts (18% of all complaints closed with monetary relief), prepaid cards (17%), and credit cards (16%). Less than 1% each for complaints about credit or consumer report, and debt collection, were closed with “monetary relief,” the bureau said.

Leaders of complaint categories not receiving a timely response from the companies were those for credit repair firms (8% of complaints); and payday and title lending (both 7%).

Although the report states that the bureau received complaints from all 50 states and the District of Columbia during the previous year, there were some hot spots. On a per capita basis, the agency said, it received more complaints from consumers in Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Delaware (in that order of most complaints). Consumers in South Dakota submitted the fewest complaints of any state per capita, the bureau stated.

CFPB Consumer Response Annual Report (2019)