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Color of Money: Got a grievance against a credit bureau? Post your complaint here and you're more likely to get a response.

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- Sometimes it pays to complain.

This is especially true at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The watchdog agency has a complaint database that consumers can use to ask for help in resolving financial issues, such as problems with a mortgage, debt or student loan.

In fact, if you've tried to get a credit bureau to remove erroneous information without any progress, try submitting your complaint here: www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint.

And, what do you know? Having the powerful regulatory agency behind you has the effect of making a company respond in a timely manner -- often resolving the issue in your favor.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a nonpartisan consumer advocacy group, analyzed the CFPB's complaint database and found that more than 223,000 grievances resulted in relief for consumers. More than 70,000 people got money back from the companies they complained about, according to the recently released report.

Here are some of the report's key findings:

 

-- The CFPB has received more than 1.5 million complaints since the database was established in 2011. In 2018, the agency published more than 257,000 complaints.

-- The three major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- have the most complaints. However, because each bureau has roughly 220 million consumer files, the number of complaints would naturally be higher, argues Francis Creighton, president and chief executive of the Consumer Data Industry Association, which represents credit-reporting companies.

"You have to put the complaint numbers in context," Creighton said.

-- In 2018, 43% of total complaints involved issues involving consumer credit reports or credit-repair services. As I looked through the database, I saw that quite a number of people were upset that their credit scores were being harmed because of incorrect payment history.

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