CFPB Report Highlights High Rate of Debt Collection Complaints From Servicemembers and Their Families
CFPB Enforcement Actions Returned Over $5 Million to Servicemembers in 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released an annual report today from the Office of Servicemember Affairs highlighting complaints submitted in 2015 and CFPB enforcement actions that directly impacted the military community. The report found that servicemembers have been submitting debt collection complaints to the Bureau at nearly twice the rate of non-military consumers. In addition the report highlights CFPB enforcement actions that have returned over $5 million to the pockets of servicemembers and their families in 2015.
“The complaints highlighted in today’s report show that members of the military continue to have serious problems when it comes to debt collection,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “The Bureau will continue to closely monitor complaints from servicemembers to ensure our brave men and women are getting the protection they deserve.”
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act established the Office of Servicemember Affairs to address specific consumer protection concerns for the nation’s military community. A priority of the office is to monitor the consumer complaints sent to the Bureau by servicemembers. In 2015, the CFPB received over 19,000 complaints from members of the military community. The top three most complained about products or services were debt collection, mortgages, and credit reporting. Of the over 19,000 complaints handled by the Bureau from servicemembers and their families, nearly half of them were about debt collection. Some of the specific financial issues servicemembers complained about in 2015 include:
- Debt collection: Servicemembers have been submitting debt collection complaints to the Bureau at nearly twice the rate of non-military consumers who submit complaints. Roughly 44 percent of the debt collection complaints submitted by servicemembers involved companies’ attempts to collect debt that the servicemember believes is not owed. Additionally, servicemembers often complained that debt collectors would contact their commanding officers and threaten their security clearance over a debt issue. A frequent complaint from veterans had to do with debt collectors attempting to collect debts on medical bills that should have been covered through their VA health insurance.
- Mortgages: In 2015, servicemembers submitted roughly 2,800 complaints related to mortgages. The most common type of mortgage complaint involved challenges servicemembers faced when they were unable to make payments, such as problems with loan modifications, collections, and foreclosures. In particular, servicemembers continued to experience servicing issues when they had to relocate following a permanent change of station order sending them from one base to another.
- Credit Reporting: Members of the military community submitted approximately 2,200 credit reporting complaints to the Bureau in 2015. The large majority—72 percent—of these complaints involved incorrect information on credit reports. For members of the military, complaints about incorrect information often resulted after the servicemember returned home from deployment or temporary duty stations to find fraudulent activity on their credit report. When servicemembers have attempted to fix the situation, they often experienced difficulty seeking a successful resolution with creditors.
In 2015, the CFPB took four enforcement actions that particularly impacted servicemembers and their families. In October 2015, the Bureau brought an enforcement action against Security National Automotive Acceptance Company (SNAAC), an Ohio-based auto lender, for engaging in abusive debt collection practices against servicemembers and their families. In the action, SNAAC was ordered to refund over $2 million to affected consumers. In April, the CFPB ordered Fort Knox National Company and Military Assistance Company, a military allotment processor, to provide over $3 million in redress for charging servicemembers fees without providing the proper disclosures. Also in April, the Bureau took action against RMK Financial Corp. for deceptive mortgage advertising practices when the company ran ads that led consumers to believe the company was affiliated with the U.S. government. The CFPB also took action against NewDay Financial in February 2015, for deceiving consumers about a veterans’ organization’s endorsement of NewDay products, and for paying kickbacks for customer referrals. Through these actions, servicemembers received over $5 million in relief.
The CFPB accepts complaints about many consumer financial products, including: credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts and services, payday loans, student loans, auto and other consumer loans, credit reporting, debt collection, and money transfers. The Bureau forwards complaints to the company and works to get a response – generally within 15 days. The CFPB expects companies to close all but the most complicated complaints within 60 days. Complaints inform the Bureau’s work and help to identify problems, which then feed into the Bureau’s supervision and enforcement prioritization process.
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 AskCFPB, consumers can get clear, unbiased answers to their questions about consumer financial products at consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb or by calling 1-855-411-CFPB (2372).
The full report can be found at: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/servicemembers-2015-a-year-in-review-3/
A blog about the report by Holly Petraeus, the Assistant Director for Servicemember Affairs, is at: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/servicemembers-2015-a-year-in-review/
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.