Consumer Groups Ask CFPB to Rescind FCRA Dispute Guidance

A group of 21 consumer advocacy groups yesterday sent a letter to Kathleen Kraninger, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, asking the regulator to reconsider guidance it issued earlier in the coronavirus pandemic that said it would be flexible in giving furnishers more than the required 30 days to investigate disputes.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, furnishers have 30 days to investigate disputes filed by consumers. But the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Ac instituted a number of credit reporting provisions to help individuals who have been affected by the pandemic. Because so many furnishers had employees working remotely, the CFPB issued its guidance, which was criticized by state attorneys general and consumer groups across the country.

The consumers groups counted the number of complaints filed during the same periods of 2019 and 2020 related to investigations of credit reporting disputes and claim there has been a 550% increase during the past six months.

As well, many companies by now have figured out how to adjust their operations to cope with many or all of their employees working remotely, and there is no longer a “pressing need for relaxing statutorily mandated deadlines,” the groups said in their letter.

“Even if the CRAs and furnishers understandably want to minimize the number of employees in a location, thousands of large and small companies have shifted in the last six months to operating with most of their workforce working from home,” the groups wrote. “If there are privacy and data security issues posed by working from home, multimillion-dollar transnational corporations should have been able to figure this out during the last 6 months.”

The CFPB did release a series of Frequently Asked Questions to help companies understand the guidance, including clarifying its stance on the investigation window.

“While the Bureau’s Statement indicated that the Bureau would provide some flexibility in its supervisory and enforcement approach during the COVID-19 pandemic to help furnishers and consumer reporting agencies manage the challenges of the current crisis, the Statement did not say that the Bureau would give furnishers or consumer reporting agencies an unlimited time beyond the statutory deadlines to investigate disputes before the Bureau would take supervisory or enforcement action,” it said in the FAQ. “Furnishers and consumer reporting agencies remain responsible for conducting reasonable investigations of consumer disputes in a timely fashion.”

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