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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB finds 33 percent decline in collections tradelines on credit reports

Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Debt Collection Credit Report Credit Reporting Agency FDCPA FCRA Medical Debt

Federal Issues

On February 14, the CFPB released a report examining debt collection credit reporting trends from 2018 to 2022. The Bureau’s report, Market Snapshot: An Update on Third-Party Debt Collections Tradelines Reporting, is based on data from the agency’s Consumer Credit Panel—a nationally representative sample of roughly five million de-identified credit records maintained by one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. According to the report, from Q1 2018 to Q1 2022, the total number of collections tradelines on credit reports declined by 33 percent, from 261 million tradelines in 2018 to 175 million tradelines in 2022. The Bureau determined that this decline was driven by contingency-fee-based debt collectors (responsible for primarily furnishing medical collections tradelines), who furnished 38 percent fewer tradelines during this time period. The total number of unique contingency-fee-based debt collectors also declined by 18 percent (from 815 to 672).

In a related blog post, the Bureau estimated that while medical collections tradelines declined by 37 percent between 2018 and 2022, these tradelines still constitute a majority (57 percent) of all collections on consumer credit reports. The Bureau explained that the “decline may be partly explained by structural dysfunctions in medical billing and collections, which increase the risk that debt collectors will not meet their legal obligations” and can result in false and inaccurate information. The Bureau said it will continue to closely examine medical billing and collection practices and highlighted a bulletin published in January 2022, which reminded debt collectors and credit reporting agencies of their legal obligations under the FDCPA and the FCRA when collecting, furnishing information about, and reporting medical debts covered by the No Surprises Act. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)