As previously reported here, on May 25, 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) published a blog post, examining what it described as the “practice of suppressing payment data” by credit card issuers in connection with their credit reporting. In its blog post, the CFPB alleged its research conducted in 2020 “uncovered that only about half of the largest credit card companies contribute data to credit reporting companies about the exact monthly payment amounts made by borrowers.” As a result, the CFPB reported that it sent letters to the CEOs of “the nation’s biggest credit card companies,” asking them to explain this practice. On February 26, 2023, the Bureau published an updated blog post purporting to summarize what it learned from the credit card companies’ responses.
From the responses it received, the CFPB concluded:
- Major credit card companies made the change to “suppress data” within a short period of time.
- “While our analysis didn’t seek to investigate whether entities explicitly colluded, the responses indicated that one large credit card company moved first, and other players suppressed data shortly thereafter.”
- The share of furnished credit card accounts with actual payment information declined from 88% in late 2013 to 40% by 2015.
- There was no indication when or if credit card companies would restart reporting actual payment information.
- The Bureau noted that some companies explicitly stated they would not restart furnishing such data.
- “Companies suppressed data to limit competition.”
- According to the CFPB, the responses suggested companies withheld payment information in an attempt to make it harder for competitors to offer their more profitable and less risky customers better rates, products, or services.
The blog post concluded by stating the Bureau planned to continue monitoring and addressing credit card company practices that allegedly impede effective market competition. The CFPB also warned that it will “brief the appropriate financial regulators and law enforcement agencies on our findings.”
The CFPB’s conclusions on this point seem to us like speculation, as neither the Fair Credit Reporting Act nor the Credit Reporting Resource Guide® requires card issuers to report monthly payment information, which varies constantly for credit card accounts in any event. It’s puzzling to us why this has become such an issue for the Bureau.