WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a monthly complaint snapshot highlighting consumer complaints about debt collection. The report shows that the most common complaint about debt collection has to do with attempts to collect on a debt that the consumer says is not owed. This month’s report also highlights trends seen in complaints coming from Arizona. As of Dec. 1, 2016 the Bureau has handled approximately 1,058,100 complaints across all products.
“Today’s report shows that consumers continue to report being harassed about debts they already repaid or debts they do not owe,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “The Bureau will continue to work to ensure that consumers are not being wrongly pursued by debt collectors.”
Category Spotlight: Debt Collection
Since the Bureau began accepting complaints in 2011, debt collection has been the most-complained-about financial product or service by over 100,000 complaints compared to the next most-complained-about product. As of Dec. 1, 2016, the Bureau had handled approximately 285,000 debt collection complaints. Some of the findings in the snapshot include:
- Consumers report being contacted for debts not owed: Over a third—39 percent—of complaints submitted about debt collection had to do with consumers reporting being contacted about debts that they no longer owed. Many consumers complained they were never provided documentation to verify the debt, even after submitting requests for verification.
- Accounts forwarded to third-party collectors without notice: Consumers complained that their accounts were forwarded to third-party collectors without receiving any prior notice from the original debt holder about an outstanding balance. Some of these consumers also complained that their accounts were not in delinquent status prior to contact by the third-party collectors.
- Consumers complain about being bothered by frequent and repeated calls: Many consumers complained that they are subject to frequent daily calls by debt collectors both at home and at work, even after informing the collector that contact at work was prohibited by their employer.
- Most-complained-about debt collection companies: The three companies that the Bureau has received the most average monthly complaints about are Portfolio Recovery Associates, Inc., Encore Capital Group, and ERC.
National Complaint Overview
As of Dec. 1, 2016 the CFPB has handled approximately 1,058,100 complaints nationally. Some of the findings from the statistics being published in this month’s snapshot report include:
- Complaint volume: For November 2016, debt collection was the most-complained-about financial product or service. Of the approximately 23,000 complaints handled in November, there were 6,730 complaints about debt collection. The second most-complained-about consumer product was credit reporting, which accounted for 4,138 complaints. The third most-complained-about financial product or service was mortgages, accounting for 3,954 complaints.
- Product trends: In a year-to-year comparison examining the three-month time period of September to November, prepaid product complaints showed the greatest decrease—59 percent—of any product or service. The Bureau received 183 prepaid product complaints between September and November 2016, while it received 444 complaints during the same time period in 2015.
- State information: Iowa, Georgia, and Alaska experienced the greatest year-to-year complaint volume increases from September to November 2016 period versus the same time period 12 months before. Iowa was up 39 percent, Georgia was up 37 percent, and Alaska was up 35 percent.
- Most-complained-about companies: The top three companies that received the most complaints from July through September 2016 were credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Geographic Spotlight: Arizona
This month, the CFPB highlighted complaints from Arizona and the Phoenix metro area. As of Dec. 1, 2016, consumers in Arizona have submitted 23,300 of the 1,058,100 complaints the CFPB has handled, with 15,000 of them coming from the Phoenix metro area. Findings from the Arizona complaints include:
- Debt collection is the most-complained-about product or service: Consumers in Arizona most often submitted complaints about debt collection. Debt collection complaints accounted for 29 percent of the complaints submitted to the Bureau by consumers from Arizona, while nationally debt collection complaints account for 27 percent of complaints.
- Rate of mortgage-related complaints nearly equal to the national rate: Complaints related to mortgages accounted for 25 percent of all complaints submitted by consumers from Arizona. This is nearly identical to the rate of 24 percent at which consumers nationally submit mortgage complaints to the CFPB.
- Most-complained-about companies: In the October 2015 to September 2016 time period, the three most complained about companies by consumers from Arizona were Equifax, Experian, and Wells Fargo.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the CFPB, established consumer complaint handling as an integral part of the CFPB’s work. The CFPB began accepting complaints as soon as it opened its doors in July 2011. It currently accepts complaints on many consumer financial products, including credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts and services, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers, debt collection, and payday loans.
In June 2012, the CFPB launched its Consumer Complaint Database, which is the nation’s largest public collection of consumer financial complaints. When consumers submit a complaint they have the option to share publicly their explanation of what happened. For more individual-level complaint data and to read consumers' experiences, visit the Consumer Complaint Database at: www.consumerfinance.gov/complaintdatabase/.
Company-level complaint data in the report uses a three-month rolling average of complaints sent by the Bureau to companies for response. This data lags other complaint data in this report by two months to reflect the 60 days companies have to respond to complaints, confirming a commercial relationship with the consumer. Company-level information should be considered in the context of company size.
To submit a complaint, consumers can:
- Go online at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/
- Call the toll-free phone number at 1-855-411-CFPB (2372) or TTY/TDD phone number at 1-855-729-CFPB (2372)
- Fax the CFPB at 1-855-237-2392
- Mail a letter to: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, Iowa 52244
- Additionally, through “Ask CFPB,” consumers can get clear, unbiased answers to their questions at consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb or by calling 1-855-411-CFPB (2372).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.