We reported in September of this year on a demand from multiple consumer advocacy groups to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) to rescind its April 1, 2020, credit report guidance that relaxed the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s (“FCRA”) deadlines to investigate consumer-initiated direct disputes. In a letter dated November 9, 2020, CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger told the National Consumer Law Center that the CFPB would not drop the FCRA relief for furnishers and credit reporting agencies.

In April, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the CFPB advised that it would ease the deadlines for furnishers and consumer reporting agencies (“CRAs”) to investigate consumers’ disputes regarding the information on their credit reports. Under the FCRA, businesses have 30 days to investigate a dispute, extending to 45 days in some circumstances. The CFPB stated it would not take supervisory or enforcement action against companies that try but fail to meet these deadlines, attributing the policy to the potentially “significant operational disruptions” then facing the industry due to the pandemic.

Consumer advocacy groups argue that furnishers and CRAs are ignoring many disputes given the rise since April in consumer complaints about investigation delays. Moreover, consumer groups contend furnishers and CRAs have had ample time to adapt to the pandemic and respond to complaints timely.

In response, Kraninger stated, “I want to make clear that all companies continue to remain responsible for FCRA compliance with dispute resolutions in a timely fashion,” Kraninger wrote. “However, during the extraordinary times in which we find ourselves, the bureau does not intend to cite in an examination or bring an enforcement action against firms who exceed the deadlines to investigate such disputes — but only as long as efforts are made in good faith to do so as quickly as possible.”

According to the letter, the CFPB maintains it will keep looking at the administration of consumer-initiated disputes on a company-by-company basis and whether firms are exercising good-faith efforts.

Consumer reporting agencies and furnishers should be aware of the heightened concerns surrounding the reporting deadlines for consumer-initiated disputes and use their best efforts to resolve them promptly. We will continue to monitor any developments regarding the CFPB’s activities and guidance involving the FCRA.