The CFPB published its Consumer Response Annual Report for 2023, which discusses the consumer complaints received by the CFPB in that year and how companies responded to those complaints. The CFPB monitors consumers’ complaints and companies’ responses in order to glean information about the types of challenges consumers are experiencing with financial products and services. As a part of its monitoring, the CFPB reviews a sample of complaints and company responses to ensure the responses are accurate, timely, and complete. The CFPB also monitors for patterns and trends in the types of complaints submitted by consumers and the companies who are the subject of complaints for purposes of prioritizing CFPB action. In 2023, the CFPB sent more than 1.3 million complaints to more than 3,400 companies for review and response. Of these, 79% related to credit and consumer reporting, 7% related to debt collection, 4% related to credit cards, 4% related to checking and savings accounts, and 2% related to mortgages. A smaller percentage of complaints were related to a variety of other product types, including money transfer services, auto loans, and student loans.

Credit and Consumer Reports. According to the report, the vast majority of complaints (1.1 million complaints) were related to credit and consumer reporting issues, with over 1 million of them directed to the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). In 2023, the most common complaint was about incorrect information on a credit report. Consumers complained about inaccurate information pertaining to account balances, account opening dates, payment dates, bankruptcies, payment statuses, inquiries, and personal information. Some consumers complained about the need to follow up with CRAs multiple times in order to address issues, such as fixing inaccurate information, or resolving matters that were not properly investigated.

The CFPB noted an increase in consumer complaints about identity theft. Consumers complained about credit bureaus reporting new accounts and credit inquiries appearing on their credit reports that they did not initiate and did not recognize. Consumers reported having difficulties removing the inaccurate information, even after providing additional evidence, such as police reports or FTC documentation regarding the identity theft claim. According to the CFPB, CRAs had inconsistent approaches to responding to these complaints, including removing some, but not all, inaccurate information, blocking some of the disputed accounts, denying the requests entirely, or requesting more proof for identity theft claims. The CFPB states that consumers described frustration with the time and cost associated with contacting CRAs and data furnishers to have inaccurate information removed. Consumers also reported difficulties in receiving information from CRA representatives when they attempted to gain a better understanding of how their credit score is calculated, and how inaccurate information affects the score. Last year, we blogged about another CFPB report on the complaints submitted to the CFPB regarding the three nationwide CRAs, which echo many of the same issues discussed in this year’s report.

Debt Collection. The CFPB reports receiving approximately 109,900 debt collection complaints, regarding both first-party and third-party collectors. Of the debt collection complaints, the common issue described by consumers was that they did not owe the debt, which the CFPB states has been the predominant issue reported by consumers since the Bureau began accepting debt collection complaints in 2013. In many of these instances, consumers requested that debt collectors validate debts that had been disputed. Consumers also complained of harassing or abusive communications from debt collectors, which included high frequency of calls and receiving calls outside of permitted hours. The Bureau reports that older consumers and servicemembers both submitted a higher number of complaints regarding mortgage debt, claiming that the debt was not owed or that it was discharged in bankruptcy. The company responses to these complaints often included an explanation that the debts were valid. We have blogged on a variety of debt collection issues recently, as debt collection complaints continue to draw the attention of both federal and state regulators.

Credit Card. According to the report, the CFPB received approximately 70,000 credit card complaints. The most commonly reported issue concerned inaccurate or unauthorized purchases shown on credit card statements, which the CFPB notes is a complaint category that has increased over the past few years. Some consumers claim that after reporting unauthorized transactions and being told to expect a permanent or temporary credit to their account, they never received the credit. Some consumers report being instructed by card companies to contact merchants directly for resolution. When attempting to address card statement issues, consumers reported that they experienced “extended hold times and unhelpful representatives, received incomplete and incorrect information, and had calls disconnected […] and having to make multiple calls to resolve issues.” Other credit card issues included not receiving promotion benefits or the closing of credit card accounts without notification.

Checking and Savings Accounts. The common issue regarding checking and savings accounts reported by consumers was difficulties in managing an account. Many consumers complained about unauthorized transactions posted on their accounts, often involving peer-to-peer platforms. Additionally, consumers experienced difficulties, such as long wait times and disconnected calls, when contacting companies to resolve issues. Companies often apologized for the inconveniences and customer service issues. According to the CFPB’s report, consumers complained about being charged overdraft fees on transactions that were not paid or were unauthorized, and that companies changed the posting order of transactions leading to increased overdrafts. Companies often explained to consumers that overdraft fees are based on account activity, but companies sometimes refunded overdraft fees as a “courtesy.”

Mortgage. The majority of mortgage complaints were about conventional mortgages, specifically trouble during the payment process. Many consumers complained about forbearance and loss mitigation processes, claiming they received confusing or conflicting information about deferral options and that companies failed to comply with Homeowner Assistance Fund plans. Consumers also complained about having a hard time reaching servicers, and that phone calls and emails went unanswered. Consumers complained about late and other fees, negative credit reporting, loss mitigation delays, and foreclosure threats when resuming payments after filing for bankruptcy or ending a forbearance period. Companies indicated a variety of reasons for these issues, such as consumers making late payments, submission of incomplete loss mitigation applications, and mortgage servicer system errors causing incorrect fees to be charged, but that were refunded.

Money Transfer Services and Virtual Currency. The most prevalent issues for this category of complaints was fraud related to digital wallets and virtual currencies. Consumers reported frequently being deceived into transferring dollars or virtual currencies to unknown people. Many times, the companies involved reminded consumers that these transactions are irreversible. Consumers also complained about account access issues, accounts being frozen for suspicious activity, and account blocks for failure to verify identity. Consumers also reported delays or non-receipt of transfers, both domestically and internationally.

Auto Loans and Leases. A small percentage of complaints relate to auto loans and leases. Servicing and payment issues played the largest role in auto loan and lease complaints. Consumers complained that payments were applied incorrectly, they were charged unwarranted late fees, they did not receive adequate GAP coverage after paying for it, vehicles were repossessed after consumers had caught up on late payments, and in some cases, vehicles were repossessed despite consumers being current on their loans. Complaints also asserted that servicers failed to comply with protections under the Servicemember Civil Relief Act. The CFPB notes that it generally does not send vehicle loan or lease complaints to vehicle dealerships for response, unless the dealer retains motor vehicle installment sales contracts.

Student Loans. Consumers complained that dealing with servicers of federal student loans was extremely difficult. Consumers reported long wait times to access a representative, receiving incorrect and incomplete information about their repayment plans, delays in refunds for payments made during the COVID-19 payment pause, and delays in processing applications for certain income-driven and loan forgiveness repayment plans. Consumers also complained about payments being marked as “processing” but never being posted to their accounts, or payments being applied incorrectly, leading to unnecessary interest accrual and affecting payment schedules.

Other. In addition to the issues discussed above, the report covers consumer complaints for personal loans, prepaid cards, credit management, payday loans, title loans, and deposit advances. While there are differences in the number of complaints per product type, the percentages regarding complaints resolved with monetary relief, resolved with non-monetary relief, closed with an explanation provided or closed with an administrative response when action could not be taken, in general appear to be about the same across complaint types. The CFPB indicated that companies overwhelmingly met the timeliness expectations for responding to complaints, with about 99.6% of complaints being met with a timely response. Generally, companies responded with relief or with an explanation to consumers about issues the consumer may have misunderstood regarding their financial product or service. The Bureau encourages companies to use complaint information to gain knowledge about their business, potential risks, and consumer needs.