CFPB pushes consumer access to credit scores

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau urged credit card companies Thursday to give their customers easy access to their own credit scores, responding to tens of thousands of complaints from the American public.

A report issued Thursday by the CFPB lists inaccurate information on credit reports among consumers’ top complaints to the agency since it was created almost three years ago.

ADVERTISEMENT
Roughly 31,000 — or 11 percent — of about 289,00 consumer complaints handled by the CFPB between 2011 and this month have centered on credit reporting, according to a report issued Thursday.

Of those, 73 percent are related to claims of inaccuracies in credit reports obtained by cardholders, the CFPB found. Faulty scores on hard-to-find credit reports can prove damaging to consumers’ personal finances, CFPB Director Richard Cordray said.

“Credit reports and scores can determine the terms of people’s mortgages, whether they qualify for auto loans, or if they are eligible for different credit cards,” Cordray said. “Making consumers’ credit scores freely available on their monthly statement or online makes it easier for them to spot problems with their credit report.”

The top three credit reporting agencies each maintain files on more than 200 million consumers, with the information supplied by thousands of data furnishers. Yet fewer than one in five Americans check their scores in a given year, according to the CFPB.

In letters sent this month to the nation’s biggest card companies, Cordray said making credit scores and related information readily available would cut the number of consumers likely to become delinquent or default on their debt payments.

“We will consider this to be a ‘best practice’ in the industry,” Cordray wrote. “Doing so through existing channels, such as including credit scores with other on-line account information and on monthly statements, is likely to yield positive returns that outweigh the limited effort involved.”

The CFPB also warned companies that provide information to credit reporting agencies not to avoid investigating consumer disputes.

While the card companies are not required to heed Cordray’s call to include credit scores on monthly statements, the head of a major industry trade association suggested the action is far from an idle request.

“The CFPB rightly points to the value of credit information and appears to be approaching this issue informally in order to allow each financial institution to create a workable solution,” said Richard Hunt, president of the Consumer Bankers Association. “However, no institution that receives a letter from its regulatory agency ‘strongly encouraging’ an action views the request benignly.”