The federal consumer watchdog is now taking your complaints about credit reports, and that may speed up an often frustrating and slow process for consumers.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will handle a variety of complaints. The agency said Monday it will work on concerns with incorrect information and improper use of credit reports. The CFPB also will look at dispute investigations by credit reporting agencies, complaints from those who are unable to get a copy of a credit score or file, and issues with credit monitoring or identity protection services.
Consumers must first file a dispute with the credit reporting agency before the CFPB will get involved. If you are unhappy with the resolution, then you can file an online complaint with the CFPB. The agency will handle complaints about the three major bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- along with other, smaller consumer reporting agencies.
The complaint system helps consumers in two ways. First, the agency serves as a personal advocate to aid an individual in resolving a complaint. Second, the agency uses the database of complaints to better understand what is working and not working in the consumer reporting industry. That could make the entire complaint process move quicker.
Disputing inaccuracies on a credit report often hasn't been easy for consumers, says Bill Bartmann, CEO of the debt collection company CFSII. Bartmann says the credit reporting agencies had little incentive to work quickly to correct the problems. No government office was looking over their shoulders. And the agencies made money from lenders, not consumers.
"They didn't have much onus if they got something wrong," he says. "But the error committed by the credit reporting agency, no matter how innocent it was, had a direct and negative impact on the consumer."
The CFPB just started supervising credit reporting agencies at the end of September. It recently released a study on the differences between credit scores sold to lenders versus ones sold to consumers. The CFPB did not mention whether it will make the complaints public like it did with the credit card complaints in July.
Aside from credit reports and credit cards, the agency also accepts complaints about banks, mortgages, car loans, student loans and other consumer loans.
Have you filed a credit report dispute before? What was your experience?
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