Report cites errors in credit bureau reports

A new report by the WISPIRG Foundation found that the most complained-about credit reporting agency in Wisconsin is Experian.

Millions of Americans have errors on their credit reports, which can affect the ability to get a loan, buy a house, rent an apartment, or even get a job.

The report released today used data collected by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public Consumer Complaints Database, which was created to help consumers resolve problems with their credit reports and has helped thousands of Americans settle financial disputes since it started accepting complaints in 2011. 

The report compared complaints against the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), commonly referred to as credit bureaus, who were together responsible for 96 percent of all complaints about credit reporting.

“The CFPB is providing aggrieved consumers with the opportunity to demand a response from credit reporting agencies and get real relief,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG director. “The nationwide credit reporting agencies effectively function as gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunity, and the CFPB’s public database holds them accountable to a high standard of accuracy.”

The report, “Big Credit Bureaus, Big Mistakes: The CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database Gets Real Results for Victims of Credit Reporting Errors,” is the third in a series of reports by the WISPIRG Foundation that analyze the complaints in the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaint Database, which accepts complaints relating to a variety of financial products and services.

Numerous studies by the WISPIRG Foundation and a 2013 study by the Federal Trade Commission have found that millions of Americans have serious errors on their credit reports. These errors can severely inhibit a consumer’s ability to get an affordable loan, rent an apartment or even find a job.

Some key findings:

Wisconsin ranks 47th in complaints per 100,000 residents. Residents of the District of Columbia were most likely to complain.

The most complained-about credit reporting agency in Wisconsin is Experian.
By far, the most common problem was incorrect information on a credit report, which accounted for 65 percent of complaints. 

The CFPB has helped enable nearly 3,000 consumers, or 30 percent of total complainants, to receive relief such as fixing incorrect information on a credit report or refunding service charges or fees related to credit reporting. 

The ‘big three’ nationwide credit reporting agencies (NCRAs) — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian — varied widely in how they responded to complaints. Equifax responded to 63 percent of its complaints with non-monetary relief, while Experian did so in only 5 percent of cases and TransUnion in 22 percent. Equifax provided monetary or non-monetary relief nearly three times as often as TransUnion and more than 10 times as often as Experian.

Consumers disputed the companies’ responses to about 18 percent of all complaints.

The “big three” NCRAs collect, centralize, and aggregate consumers’ financial information. They source this information from public record databases of bankruptcies as well as from creditors and other “furnishers,” who forward consumer bill payment history and other credit information to them voluntarily. These “big three” NCRAs accounted for 96 percent of the over 10,000 complaints on credit reporting.

WISPIRG Foundation encouraged consumers to check their credit reports regularly and follow up quickly if there are errors.

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