In case you were wondering, a statement issued by the consumer financial protection agency more than two months ago that provides some flexibility for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic does not say that furnishers or consumer reporting agencies have an unlimited amount of time to investigate disputes, according to a frequently asked questions document released Tuesday.
In issuing that initial statement, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) noted that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) generally requires lenders to report to credit bureaus that consumers are current on their loans if consumers have sought relief from their lenders due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The bureau also encouraged lenders to provide such relief and to continue to report accurate information to reporting agencies.
Additionally, that statement noted that, based on the circumstances, furnishers and reporting agencies would have some flexibility in the time they take to investigate disputes. “In evaluating compliance with the FCRA [Fair Credit Reporting Act] as a result of the pandemic, the Bureau will consider a consumer reporting agency’s or furnisher’s individual circumstances and does not intend to cite in an examination or bring an enforcement action against a consumer reporting agency or furnisher making good faith efforts to investigate disputes as quickly as possible, even if dispute investigations take longer than the statutory timeframe,” according to the statement.
The FAQs released Tuesday further address, among other things, the credit reporting requirements of the CARES Act, including considerations for furnishers when reporting consumers as current as required by the act. The bureau said they also clarify that reporting that a consumer is affected by a natural or declared disaster is not a substitute for complying with the CARES Act credit reporting requirements. It also said “[a]ll CRAs and furnishers remain responsible for conducting reasonable investigations of consumer disputes in a timely fashion.”
In one of its FAQs, the bureau states that while the CFPB’s statement said the bureau would exercise some flexibility in its supervisory and enforcement approach during the COVID-19 pandemic, it “did not say that the Bureau would give furnishers or consumer reporting agencies an unlimited time beyond the statutory deadlines to investigate disputes before the Bureau would take supervisory or enforcement action. Furnishers and consumer reporting agencies remain responsible for conducting reasonable investigations of consumer disputes in a timely fashion.”
It stated that the bureau would “evaluate individually the efforts and circumstances of each furnisher and consumer reporting agency in determining if it made good faith efforts to investigate disputes as quickly as possible.”