Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) issued a policy statement for credit reporting companies and furnishers concerning credit reporting guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement comes in the wake of the interagency statement encouraging financial institutions to work constructively with borrowers and other customers affected by COVID-19 to meet their financial needs. The interagency statement, which the CFPB joined, provided little guidance to consumer finance companies about how regulators expected consumer finance companies to meet this objective. Today’s statement from the Bureau provides more specific advice to consumer finance companies concerning their reporting obligations in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The statement includes three key provisions:
First, the Bureau encouraged consumer finance companies to continue to furnish information to credit reporting agencies during the crisis due to the “substantial benefits for consumers, users of consumer reports, and the economy as a whole.” Second, the Bureau said that it expects furnishers to comply with CARES Act requirements that furnishers report the payment status for certain credit obligations as current if payments are being made pursuant to an accommodation between the lender and consumer. Third, although the Fair Credit Reporting Act generally requires furnishers and credit reporting agencies to investigate disputes within 30 days of receipt, the Bureau announced that “[i]n evaluating compliance with the FCRA as a result of the pandemic, the Bureau will consider a consumer reporting agency’s or furnisher’s individual circumstances and does not intend to cite in an examination or bring an enforcement action against a consumer reporting agency or furnisher making good faith efforts to investigate disputes as quickly as possible, even if dispute investigations take longer than the statutory timeframe.” The policy statement does not elaborate on what the Bureau means by the terms “does not intend to cite,” “good faith efforts” or “as quickly as possible,” although the Bureau may clarify its position in a future announcement.