It's open season on the nation's largest credit reporting agencies, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now accepting complaints about Experian, Equifax, Trans Union and similar firms. The bureau also says it will offer "individual-level" assistance for consumer who say they have a hard time getting errors fixed in their credit reports and credit scores.
The credit agencies, also known as credit bureaus, have attracted complaints from consumers for some time. Numerous studies have shown the reports are full of errors -- in part due to high incidence of identity theft -- and that those errors can stand in the way of consumers trying to get home loans, auto loans, and much more. In 2011, there were 18,818 complaints filed by consumers against credit bureaus with the Federal Trade Commission, which formerly had regulatory authority over the bureaus.
"Credit reporting companies exert great influence over the lives of consumers. They help determine eligibility for loans, housing and sometimes jobs,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Consumers need an avenue of recourse when they feel they have been wronged.”
Consumers who wish to file a complaint with the bureau must first go through the standard dispute process established by each firm. If the dispute remains unresolved, consumers can complain to the bureau about incorrect information on a credit report; the results of a consumer reporting agency’s investigation; the improper use of a credit report; being unable to get a copy of a credit score or file; and problems with credit monitoring or identity protection services.
Consumers may file complaints at the bureau’s website.
Complaint handling is one of the core missions of the bureau, which was created as part of the controversial Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The agency started collecting consumer complaints about credit card issuers in 2011, and has since added student loans, mortgages and other bank services. The bureau added credit reporting agencies to its regulatory portfolio last month.
Consumers who are frustrated by credit reporting agencies can still complain to the Federal Trade Commission, but that agency does not generally get involved in settling individual disputes.
* Follow Bob Sullivan on Facebook.
* Follow Bob Sullivan on Twitter.