“Today’s study is another step toward bringing more clarity to the confusing world of credit reports. It will help educate regulators and consumers about how this important industry works,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "If consumers know how these companies handle their credit histories, they can make better decisions on how to handle their financial lives."
Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion each have more than 200 million consumer files. In a typical month, they receive updates from approximately 10,000 information furnishers on more than 1.3 billion trade lines including car loans, mortgage loans and credit cards.
Specific information revealed in the report includes:
- More than half of the trade lines in the credit bureau databases are supplied by the credit card industry. Forty percent comes from bank cards, such as general credit cards, 18% comes from retail credit cards. Only 7% comes from mortgage lenders or servicers, and only 4% comes from auto lenders.
- More than a third of disputes have to do with collections. In 2011, consumers reached out to the credit reporting companies roughly 8 million times, resulting in disputes of 32 to 38 million items in their credit files. Almost 40% of the disputes relate to debt in collections, and debt in collections is five times more likely to be disputed than mortgage information. According to the industry, some of this may have to do with consumers’ incentive to dispute any negative information on their reports.
- Fewer than one in five people obtain copies of their credit report each year.
- Most information contained in credit files comes from a small number of large banks and other financial institutions. In fact, the top 10 data furnishers provide 57% of the trade lines coming into the credit reporting companies. The top 50 furnishers provide 72 percent.
- Credit reporting companies resolve an average of 15% of consumer-disputed items internally, without getting the data furnishers involved. The remaining 85% are passed on to the furnishers. The report, however, found that the documentation consumers mail in to support their cases may not be getting passed on to the data furnishers for them to properly investigate and report back to the credit reporting company.
The CFPB is the first federal government agency to supervise consumer reporting agencies. Previously, these companies were not supervised at the federal level.