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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB Monthly Complaint Report Focuses on Credit Cards; 2016 Annual Report to Congress Highlights FDCPA Activities

Consumer Finance CFPB Consumer Complaints FDCPA Congress

Consumer Finance

On March 28, the CFPB released its monthly complaint report highlighting consumer complaints as of March 1 of this year. The report states that the Bureau has handled approximately 1,136,000 consumer complaints across all categories, of which 10 percent (116,200) relate to credit cards. A few of the most common findings raised by consumers are: (i) issues with fraudulent charges—both with respect to being billed for charges not initiated by them and experiencing difficulties having charges removed even after a dispute has been resolved in their favor; (ii) issues regarding reward program requirements and benefits; and (iii) issues regarding identity theft complaints, specifically with respect to “credit card accounts being fraudulently opened in their name even after an alert was placed on their credit file.” The report discloses that credit card complaints, along with complaints regarding debt collection practices, constituted the most prolific category of consumer complaints in February 2017. Credit reporting complaints and mortgage complaints are the second and third most common complaints, respectively. As previously reported in InfoBytes last month, student loan complaints continued to show the greatest increase year-over-year for the same three month time period of December to February—551 complaints from 2015/2016 versus 2,913 complaints in 2016/2017.

Furthermore, the report’s geographic spotlight this month, Massachusetts, represented 1.8 percent of the total number of complaints nationally handled by the CFPB, and while debt collection complaints were “significantly lower” than the national average (20 percent as compared to 27 percent), the rate of mortgage complaints was roughly at the national average. 

Also this month, on March 6, the CFPB submitted to Congress its sixth annual report summarizing its efforts to administer the FDCPA and highlighting the work done by the CFPB and the FTC, both of whom “work closely to coordinate” FDCPA enforcement actions (see prior InfoBytes coverage on FTC letter summary). The report discusses consumer complaints and debt collection enforcement activity, amicus briefs filed in FDCPA-related cases, consumer education efforts, and initiatives regarding rulemaking, research, and policy. FDCPA examinations performed in 2016 “identified a number of violations of the law …including false representations made by debt collectors to consumers, unlawful fees charged by debt collectors, and illegal disclosure of debts to third parties.” Furthermore, the examinations “also found instances in which debt sellers sold accounts for collection that did not properly reflect that the accounts were discharged in bankruptcy, were fraudulent, or had already been paid . . . Additionally . . . [i]n the cases that were concluded in 2016, $39 million was paid in restitution for consumers who were impacted by illegal debt collection practices and $20 million in civil penalties.”

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