On March 24, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provided the Consumer Response 2020 Annual Report (CFPB Report) to Congress. The CFPB Report reflects complaints submitted by consumers to the CFPB and analyzes those complaints.

In 2020, the CFPB saw a 54% rise in complaints from 2019 — with the total number increasing from 352,400 in 2019 to 542,300 in 2020. The CFPB attributes the rise in complaints, at least in part, to the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the consumer financial marketplace with CFPB Acting Director Dave Ueijo stating, “The pandemic has been among the most disruptive long-term events we will see in our lifetimes. Not surprisingly, the shockwaves it sent across the planet were felt deeply in the consumer financial marketplace.”

Key takeaways from the CFPB Report include:

  • Credit and consumer reporting received the largest portion of consumer complaints, accounting for 58% of total complaints;
  • Debt collection was the second highest area of consumer complaints, totaling 15% of complaints;
  • Per capita, Florida consumers submitted more complaints than any other state, with 309 complaints submitted per 100,000 people;
  • Self-identified servicemembers, veterans, and military families submitted 40,800 complaints, accounting for approximately 7.5% of complaints; and
  • While only 5.9% of complaints explicitly mentioned COVID-19, the CFPB emphasized that “absence of coronavirus as a keyword in a complaint does not necessarily mean the complaint was not related to the financial impact of the pandemic.”

In a press release, the CFPB noted that complaints about inaccurate information on credit and consumer reports rose from the prior year. The CFPB also emphasized that “in prior years” credit reporting agencies “provided substantive and comparatively detailed responses to the majority of complaints.” However, in a potential shot across the bow, the CFPB “observed” that agencies “stopped providing complete and accurate responses to many of these complaints” in 2020.

At the onset of the pandemic, the CFPB signaled regulatory relief in an April 1, 2020 policy statement about operational challenges posed by COVID-19, stating it “will consider a consumer reporting agency’s or furnisher’s individual circumstances” when conducting an examination for compliance with the FCRA. Companies providing consumer financial services now, however, can expect a more aggressive CFPB with President Biden’s nomination of Rohit Chopra to serve as the agency’s new director.