CFPB opens federal complaint system to credit report disputes

Fed up with the way the credit bureaus are handling your credit information? You can now file a complaint directly with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Credit report dispute process
Federal law guarantees consumers the right to dispute and remove credit report errors. But a investigation finds that instead of having disputes individually researched, consumers confront an automated system that compresses their side of a dispute to a few lines of code, discards their evidence and rubber-stamps what lenders say.

Beginning Monday, Oct. 22, the federal watchdog group began accepting complaints related to the three big credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, and to the many smaller credit reporting agencies that collect and sell your financial information to other companies.

Previously, consumers had nowhere else to turn but to the courts when they couldn't get a complaint resolved with a credit reporting agency. They now can file a complaint directly with the CFPB and the government agency will relay that information to the credit bureaus and ask the bureaus for a personalized response.

"Credit reporting companies exert great influence over the lives of consumers," said CFPB director Richard Cordray in a statement accompanying the announcement. "They help determine eligibility for loans, housing and sometimes jobs. Consumers need an avenue of recourse when they feel they have been wronged."

Credit bureaus will be expected to respond within 15 days after they have received a complaint from the CFPB -- and the response will have to be more than just a boilerplate summary. The CFPB is asking the credit bureaus to respond to each credit report complaint with specific steps that the bureau has taken -- or will take -- to get a consumer's issue resolved. If a consumer isn't satisfied with a credit bureau's response, he or she can challenge the response by sending a dispute directly to the CFPB.  

System helps enforce the Fair Credit Reporting Act
Many of the anticipated complaints the CFPB lists on its website are instances in which a consumer's rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act have been violated. For example, by law, credit reporting agencies are required to properly investigate and correct legitimate errors on a consumer's credit report after a consumer has disputed them. But sometimes real errors get mistakenly verified, according to numerous reports.

Richard Cordray

If a consumer feels the credit bureau has not properly investigated a dispute, took more than 30 days to respond to it or did not notify the consumer of an investigation's results, the consumer can notify the CFPB. "Each complaint will be processed individually and sent to the company for response," according to the agency.

Other possible complaints the agency lists on its site include:

  • The improper, and potentially illegal, use of a consumer's credit report.
  • Problems with obtaining a federally guaranteed free annual copy of a credit report.
  • Issues with the bureaus' credit monitoring or identity protection services.
  • Problems with canceling or closing an account with the credit bureaus -- or with being harassed by unwanted marketing or advertising campaigns.

How to submit your complaints
If you're complaining about an error on your credit report that has yet to be resolved, make sure that you first submit a dispute through the credit reporting agency's formal dispute system, says the CFPB. That ensures that your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act will be automatically triggered.

If a credit bureau persists in verifying what you believe is an error on your report -- or if you are dissatisfied with some other issue related to your credit reports -- you can file your complaint online using the CFPB's formal complaint system. Or you can submit your complaint by phone by calling the toll free number 855-411-2372. (If you're hearing impaired, try calling the agency's TTY/TDD number instead at 855-729-2372.)

If you prefer to write a letter rather than submit your complaint online, you can send your complaint by fax to 855-237-2392 or by mail to: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, IA 52244.

Once you have submitted your complaint, the CFPB will give you a tracking number that you can use to monitor it while you wait for a response. In order to check your complaint's status, you will need to register with the CFPB online and set up a user name and password.

If you're dissatisfied with the answer you receive from the credit bureau after you have submitted your complaint, contact the CFPB. You can dispute any response that you feel doesn't resolve your specific issue.  

See related: 10 surefire steps to get errors off your credit reports; Federal agency opens credit card complaints to public

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Updated: 01-16-2019