Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its July 2020 Complaint Bulletin, which updated data on COVID-19-related consumer complaints. While complaints that meet the CFPB’s criteria for being COVID-related—using coronavirus keywords—seem to only account for 4% of the total complaints received in 2020, this might not tell the whole story.


COVID-19-Related Complaints

The updated consumer complaints data says the CFPB received 8,357 complaints through its database between January 1 and May 31 that mention “coronavirus keywords.” 

Complaints related to mortgages were most prominent. Mortgage complaints made up 19% of the coronavirus keyword complaints. 55% of those complaints revolved around consumers struggling to pay their mortgages. 

Credit reporting was also a big ticket item, making up 18% of the coronavirus keyword complaints. The main issue, accounting for 55% of the COVID credit reporting complaints, had to do with incorrect information on credit reports. 

Debt collection complaints were in 4th place of COVID-related complaints, but 2nd place in overall 2020 complaints. The biggest issue for collections-related complaints was attempts to collect a debt not owed.

Overall Complaints 

The Bulletin shows that the average number of complaints received since the President declared a national emergency has skyrocketed above the baseline. The graph below shows the difference in weekly complaint volume of all complaints received compared to the baseline, which represents the average complaint volume prior to the national emergency declaration.

CFPB July 2020 Complaint Bulletin - Chart 1

This indicates that the volume of complaints has increased significantly post-COVID. Yet, COVID-related complaints account for only 4% of the total complaints received this year. This seems a little odd. One possible explanation for this discrepancy might be that consumers had COVID-related complaints that simply did not include a coronavirus keyword, as defined by the CFPB. 

While the average volume of complaints across all products increased significantly, debt collection complaint volumes remained generally steady pre- and post-COVID. According to the chart below (highlight added for ease of reference), complaints that saw the largest increase include prepaid card, money transfer or virtual currency, credit reporting, and credit cards. 

CFPB July 2020 Complaint Bulletin - Chart 2


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