Complaints about debt collectors filed by consumers with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau increased 10% in 2020 compared with 2019, ranking the industry only behind credit or consumer reporting in terms of the total number of complaints that were filed last year, a year in which the total number of complaints increased by 54%.
Credit reporting was far and away the most popular subject of consumer complaints last year, accounting for nearly 60% of those that were made by consumers. The 319,300 complaints that consumers made about credit reporting agencies was more than double the number that were filed in 2019 and dwarfed all other products and services. By comparison, consumers filed 82,700 complaints about debt collectors, which was second on the list.
Within the debt collection complaints, attempts to collect a debt that was not owed was the most popular issue cited by consumers, accounting for 52% of all collection complaints filed in 2020. That was followed by written notification about a debt (24%) and false statements or representations (8%).
The CFPB noted an uptick in the number of consumers who were complaining about text messages they had received concerning debts that were purportedly owed, but the total number of complaints “remain small in number.”
Among the types of debt that generated the most complaints, “other debt” ranked first, accounting for 27% of complaints, followed by credit card debt (25%), and “I don’t know” (24%).
Interestingly, the CFPB reported a decrease in the number of complaints made by consumers about communication tactics, alleging threats to contact someone, or sharing information improperly decreased in 2020, perhaps because of restrictions imposed by different states in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, posited the CFPB.
“The pandemic has been among the most disruptive long-term events we will see in our lifetimes,” said CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio in a statement. “Not surprisingly, the shockwaves it sent across the planet were felt deeply in the consumer financial marketplace. Consumer complaints provide the CFPB with an important real-time window into where consumers encounter problems in the marketplace. The CFPB expects companies to respond to these concerns and that consumers receive responses from companies that address the issues consumers raise in their complaints.”