Forcing RNI: Filing An Official Complaint
There are many consumer protection agencies who protect consumers against unfair and illegal practices, such as the reporting of information or the refusal to follow established laws. If a consumer files a compliant with one of these agencies and shows, through proper documentation of their dispute process, that their rights are being violated, many times the consumer protection agency will direct the credit bureau to remove the unverified information that is being reported about the consumer.
USING THE CFPB
By following an established process, consumers should complete the following steps before submitting their complaint to the CFPB:
- Sending initial dispute letters to the credit bureaus
- Sending method of verification request letters to the credit bureaus
- Sending collector validation letters and/or 609 dispute letters if applicable
After a consumer has completed these steps, they need to collect each response they have received to each dispute letter along with the most recent copy of their credit reports.
The goal of a credit repair professional is to piece the information together in a way which will make it clear to others (such as the CFPB) that it is inaccurate, so that a complaint can be filed to force compliance from the credit bureaus.
If the bureaus and others responded to initial dispute letters by claiming to have verified the debt but without providing the necessary documentation (very common) and/or refusing to stop reporting the negative information, then consumers simply need to move on to the next anticipated step in the dispute process, which is to file a complaint with a consumer protection agency.
If the negative information has remained on a consumer’s credit report while under dispute then both the collector and the bureaus may need to be issued complaints. If neither the data furnishers nor the bureaus are able to provide legitimate debt verification then there is no way to verify the accuracy of these accounts, and both data furnisher and reporter must remove the disputed accounts until they are verified.
One of the most amazing credit repair resources available is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Consumers utilize the CFPB on a regular basis as the final step in removing inaccurate information from credit reports. This is because the CFPB has the power to make collectors, creditors, and credit bureaus comply with the law or discontinue reporting of inaccurate information.
The CFPB is in the business of protecting consumer rights against unfair debt collection and reporting. Anyone can go onto their site and file a complaint against a creditor or a collection company. It is a simple process that allows complaint filers to attach supporting documents and make their case demonstrating the inaccuracies of the information or the improper conduct of the parties involved.
By submitting a complaint through the CFPB, the credit bureaus, collection agencies, and original creditors can no longer “play dumb” with the information that consumers send to them, and they are made to adhere to the laws or cease reporting or furnishing the disputed information about the consumer. The compliance of the credit bureaus is therefore both forced and monitored.
What the CFPB provides is a lawful medium for the exchange of information between consumers and those furnishing or reporting information about them. The CFPB will receive the information submitted and then make it available to the interested parties, ensuring that they cannot deny having received it.
By doing this, the CFPB is providing oversight to the entire process in order to ensure companies play by the rules, and that consumers’ rights are honored.
Consumers should not make filing a complaint with the CFPB their first step. In order to utilize the CFPB, those needing to file a complaint will need to follow the established procedures for disputing credit report information as outlined in this course. Only after a consumer has filed their dispute with the credit bureau and it has not been re-mediated to their satisfaction should they go to the CFPB to file a complaint.
Once there, consumers may file complaints against the companies that they believe have violated their rights or are continuing to report inaccurate information despite being notified that it is incorrect, including most data furnishers and all three credit bureaus. These companies take complaints from the CFPB seriously, and they will be forced to comply if they have not been doing so.
In order to submit a winning complaint consumers will need to upload all of the evidence that they have collected throughout their dispute filing process, which includes the letters and enclosures that have been sent and the responses that have been received. Once logged into the CFPB portal, consumers will write a brief explanation to the CFPB detailing why they believe that their rights have been violated or how the information being reported about them is incorrect, the name of the company that is violating their rights, and what their expectations are regarding the complaint process. An example complaint explanation is provided in this course module, and there are additional materials available in the dispute letter index on the left hand side of your student portal.
If students wish to file a complaint with the CFPB and have followed the steps outlined in this course, they will simply upload the copies of the dispute letters they have mailed along with the responses they have received and the timeline of events. Sometimes consumers don’t receive a response after sending a dispute letter. If that is the case for you or your client, note that in your complaint. Per many consumer protection laws, not receiving a response to a dispute means that typically the information needs to be removed from the consumer’s credit report until one is received.
Consumers should let the CFPB know in their complaint that they have filed a dispute with the credit bureaus regarding information that is incorrect and not received an adequate response. If consumers ask the CFPB to direct the bureaus to stop reporting the information until proper verification is provided they likely will.
Even if the debt collector has provided “verification” of the debt, many times that does not provide enough information for consumers to be realistically be expected to pay them any money, or to be used to continue to report the debt onto their credit reports.
By uploading all letters and responses from the dispute process, the CFPB will be able to tell that the consumer informed the bureau that the information they are reporting is not accurate, asked them to investigate, and received an inadequate response.
The CFPB will make all of this information available to the collector and to the credit bureaus on the consumer’s behalf and notify them when they have received a response.
By doing this, the responsible parties have absolutely no wiggle room for playing games like suggesting that they didn’t receive the proper documentation or that they have no record of a consumer filing a dispute.
A former student once filed a complaint through the CFPB against a collection company, including uploading detailed letters, responses and enclosures. The collection company responded by restating their “verification” of debt and asking the consumer to mail them paper copies of all dispute materials because they were having “technical difficulties” retrieving them from the CFPB portal.
This meant that the student had to “Dispute” the response that was given to her by the collector. That is done within the CFPB portal by simply clicking the “Dispute” button once a response has been received to a filed complaint. Once a consumer disputes the credit bureau’s response from within the CFPB portal, the CFPB becomes involved and will review the evidence and issue its conclusion when it is done with its investigation. Prior to “Disputing” the credit bureaus response from within the CFPB portal, the CFPB portal functions as an intermediary between the consumer and the credit bureau, but does not review information or issue a decision until after the consumer disputes the credit bureaus response from within the CFPB portal.
The response above that the collector issued was an example of a typical stall tactic that collectors and the bureaus will use against consumers to ensure that negative information is reported as long as possible, on as many accounts as possible.
Fortunately for our former student, after a complaint is filed with the CFPB all communications with the debt collector, credit bureaus and others go through the CFPB’s convenient online portal, ensuring that the CFPB has an accurate record of what the collector tells consumers and the information they provide so that it can all be quickly accessed and reviewed by the CFPB.
In this complaint, the former student issued a professional and polite response via the CFPB portal where she explained that it was not her job to function as the I.T. department for a collection firm to ensure they can properly open a PDF file. She also noted that she should not be the one to continue to suffer negative financial consequences simply because the collector couldn’t download and open a common a PDF file. Since the files were uploaded to the CFPB portal, the CFPB could verify that they were accessible and determine that the collector was using a stall tactic by asking the student to submit paper copies of all documentation through the mail.
No additional documentation was mailed to the collector, as they had requested, simply because all of that documentation had already been uploaded to the CFPB and the former student knew the collector was playing games. The CFPB provides a medium for the exchange of information, and will not let collectors or the bureaus claim that they have not received or had access to information from the consumer. In this case, the CFPB verified that the student had taken proper action because she documented everything and provided that documentation to them. They then ruled in her favor against the collector, and her negative collection account was removed from her credit reports due to the consumer protection agency (watchdog) forcing compliance.
When filing a successful complaint, consumers need to prove their case, similar to a lawsuit. By following the process in this course, students can develop the paperwork trail necessary to win complaints and ultimately have negative information removed from their credit reports.
Many times in situations like this, the evidence that is provided to the CFPB that does demonstrates non-compliance on the part of the credit bureaus, collectors and others is actually the lack of evidence that has been provided by those parties, due to their non-compliance.
Many Consumers Have Unknown Credit Problems
Many times consumers are surprised at how easy it is for companies to violate their rights, and about the sheer number of consumer rights violations that occur.
There isn’t an alarm or a bell that goes off to let a consumer know when their rights are violated, but it is very common for laws to be broken during the collection and reporting of data. This is one of the primary reasons that such a tremendous amount of credit reporting errors exist.
By law, consumers are entitled to review legitimate debt validation prior to entering into any kind of payment plan with a debt collector. If the collector doesn’t provide the validation, then they are not allowed to report that debt onto the consumer’s credit report.
They don’t remove information voluntarily very often though, which is why filing a complaint is often the final step in dispute processing.
Do not abuse the CFPB. If consumers choose to file a complaint with them, it needs to be legitimate, well documented, and neatly formatted. The on-topic, professional tone that can be utilized by customizing one of the letters from this course can also be used when filing a complaint with CFPB, which will demonstrate that the consumer filing the complaint is aware of their rights and not wasting their time.
Consumers cannot file a complaint with the CFPB until they have disputed their issue with the credit bureaus first. If consumers do go to the CFPB first, they will simply not be able to take any action on the consumer’s complaint as the bureaus and data furnishers are afforded the first opportunity to correct the situation before a complaint can filed against them.
If a student who is following the dispute plan laid out in this course has already sent out and received responses to initial, method of verification, collector validation and 609 letters and tracked the process thoroughly, then they should have a good amount of documentation to present to the CFPB to support their complaint.
Example Of Successful Complaint
The following letter is an example of a successful complaint filed through the CFPB that resulted in the removal of negative information.
The total cost to have this item deleted from all three credit reports was almost zero, and it took less than 60 days to complete the entire process. The CFPB complaint process is very powerful when backed up with proper documentation and knowledge of consumer rights.
In this case the consumer was forced to continue enduring a credit card company that refused to remove a fraudulent credit card account that had been opened in her name and then charged off. It was already almost four years old by the time she was made aware of it on her credit report.
After this item was disputed with the bureaus and the credit card company (original creditors are not required to provide validation) and not removed from her credit reports, the consumer forwarded the information to the CFPB for review via the filing of an official complaint.
The CFPB then forwarded all information regarding this complaint to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (the credit card company’s jurisdictional oversight). The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis then investigated the claim and supporting documentation and forwarded their conclusions to the CFPB. The CFPB then forced compliance by directing the credit bureaus to delete this account from the consumer’s credit reports. Here is a picture of the letter below:
This process has proven successful for consumers and will continue to do so as long as the time is taken to properly document everything and then present that evidence to the CFPB in a clear and professional manner.
There are other consumer protection agencies that you can file your complaints with besides the CFPB, however the CFPB’s process is streamlined, effective, free, and can be done entirely online.
Module 8 references
1. “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau”; https://www.consumerfinance.gov/
2. “Submit A Complaint To The CFPB”;https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/
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