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WASHINGTON - A leading consumer group warned that special interest attacks designed to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would also jeopardize its efforts to rein in the Big Three credit bureaus, which make mistakes that deny financial or employment opportunity to millions. The group added that since 2011 the successful CFPB has returned nearly $12 billion to 29 million consumers harmed by Wall Street banks, debt collectors, payday lenders, credit bureaus and other financial players.
The CFPB has used its strong tools, including supervisory, or examination, authority to investigate and improve compliance with the 1970 Fair Credit Reporting Act by large credit bureaus, especially the so-called Big Three – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.Recent news reports that the credit bureaus are removing liens and judgments that may be inaccurate info suggest strongly that the CFPB oversight is helping consumers.
“Congress passed legislation in 1970 to hold the credit bureaus accountable, but it never gave the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the tools it needed to enforce the law or protect consumers,” said Ed Mierzwinski, the Consumer Program Director for U.S. PIRG. “Yet, we are now seeing strong evidence that CFPB oversight is working to clean up inaccurate info. Taking away the CFPB would let the reckless credit bureaus run amok again, allowing their mistakes and abject refusal to fix them to deny financial opportunity again, just as it did for forty years.”
- Recognizing the significance of credit bureaus in the consumer marketplace, the first use of CFPB’s Congressionally-authorized “larger participant” authority was to grant itself supervisory, or examination, authority over larger credit bureaus. The FTC never had this tool.
- CFPB’s publication this month of a special edition of a “supervisory highlights” report outlines all the problems examiners have identified with credit bureaus and lists CFPB-demanded changes to the credit bureau’s “sub-par” reporting, reinvestigation and complaint procedures.
- CFPB’s Monthly Complaint Database “snapshots” regularly list the credit bureaus as ranking 1, 2, and 3 in consumer complaints of all financial companies.
According to an in-depth analysis of that CFPB “Supervisory Highlights Report” by Chi Chi Wu of the National Consumer Law Center, “The report confirms the long-standing and extensive criticisms that attorneys and advocates have had of the Big Three CRCs [Consumer Reporting Companies] over the decades. As CFPB Director Richard Cordray characterized it, “Standards on the accuracy of information in consumer credit files were distinctly sub-par.”
Both NCLC and PIRG have conducted numerous studies of the credit bureaus and the two groups’ many reports have documented that the bureaus not only make serious mistakes in credit reports, they fail to reinvestigate them as required by law. Consequently, 5% of consumers have mistakes significant enough to be denied employment or financial opportunity or force them to pay too much for the credit they deserve, according to a 2013 FTC report, Mierzwinski added.
“The credit bureaus have for too long functioned as gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunity without adequate oversight,” added Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG Consumer Advocate. “Their mistakes mean you won’t get a fairly priced loan, a bank account, a place to live or even a job.”
“You can choose your bank and you can vote with your feet if you don’t like it. You’re stuck, however, with the credit bureaus,” concluded Mierzwinski.“We need to protect a strong CFPB because it’s making a difference for consumers in all financial markets, including credit reporting.”
U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.
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