Report: Consumer Protection

Consumers in Peril

CFPB data shows consumer problems in the year of COVID-19
Released by: Illinois PIRG Education Fund

A review of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public complaint database finds that consumer complaints about financial grievances spiked during the pandemic year of 2020, eclipsing 2019, the previous record year. 

Analysis of complaint volumes and the types of complaints received shows that, as consumers dealt with the economic fallout of the pandemic, they increasingly faced  problems with financial companies. The CFPB, the Biden administration and Congressional policymakers should take immediate and longer-term actions to protect consumers and rein in unfair practices in the financial marketplace.

The urgent need for CFPB action is shown by a recent statement of its new acting director, Dave Uejio: 

“One thing we can do immediately is focus our supervision and enforcement tools on overseeing the companies responsible for COVID relief. I am concerned about the findings described in last week’s Supervisory Highlights edition that companies are failing to properly administer relief through the crisis.” 

Early in the pandemic, under the previous administration:

“The Bureau issued a number of statements that provided entities with temporary regulatory relief. The Bureau also announced that, in certain instances, the Bureau would take a flexible supervisory and enforcement approach during the pandemic.” 

The statements and supervisory guidances are archived by the CFPB.

A series of previous reports during the pandemic by U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group has tracked the increasing problems consumers faced with family finances during the pandemic; we found that those problems were exacerbated by the Bureau’s lax approach to enforcement in 2020.

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