CFPB Publishes County-by-County Breakdown of Consumer Complaints

There appears to be a racial component to consumer complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to data released yesterday by the regulator, including complaints related to debt collection. Overall, consumers living in counties with the highest percentage of minority populations submitted four times as many complaints as those living in counties with the lowest percentages of minority populations.

A copy of the report can be accessed by clicking here. It broke down all of the counties in the United States by the percentage of minority populations living in them into five categories — counties where between 1% and 20% where minorities, where between 21% and 40% were minorities, where between 41% and 60% were minorities, where between 61% and 80% were minorities, and where between 81% and 100% were minorities.

On average, about 24 out of every 100,000 people living in the United States filed a debt collection-related complaint with the CPFB in 2019 or 2020. In the counties where between 41% and 60% are minorities, the complaint number was 30.1 per 100,000, in the counties where between 61% and 80% were minorities, it was 37.5 per 100,000, and in counties where between 81% and 100% are minorities, it was 30.3 per 100,000 individuals. In the two categories where the percentage of minorities was less than 40%, the number of complaints was 12.3 (1%-20%) and 20.3 (21%-40%) per 100,000 individuals.

The data pattern was not specific only to collections. For every type of complaint except prepaid cards, student loans, credit repair, and title loans, complaints were far above the national average in counties where at least 41% of the population is minorities.

Here is what the CFPB had to say about the debt collection data:

Debt collection also appears to cause more issues for consumers in predominantly minority counties than in predominately white communities. The most common debt collection complaint is about attempts to collect a debt that the consumer reports is not owed. In these complaints, consumers described a range of topics, such as being called about debts they do not recognize, attempts to collect a debt that belongs to someone else, and being in collections for services or products they did not receive.Additionally, similar to credit or consumer reporting complaints, consumers often report that a debt in collection was the result of identity theft. Complaints about debt resulting from identity theft have been increasing for several years. In these complaints, consumers often reported that they first learn of the existence of the debt after reviewing their credit reports. Many of these consumers described completing an identity theft report and contacting the collectors listed on their credit report in an attempt to remove the debt.

“Consumer complaints support and inform the CFPB’s work, and provide key insight into emerging trends in the financial marketplace,” said CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio, in a statement. “Today’s report shows that while all people across the nation face financial hardships, a significantly higher rate of complaints come from ethnically diverse communities. The data raise concerns that deserve our further study and, as such, we’ll keep a spotlight on patterns or any abuses we see.”

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