WASHINGTON - A massive study of consumer credit reports released last week found consumers had disputed up to 38-million items on their reports during 2011.
Released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the study examined data from the three largest credit agencies: Equifax Information Services, Experian Information Solutions and TransUnion. The study did not offer any details on how many of those disputes were resolved.
"Credit reporting is a critical market at the heart of our lending systems," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a call with the media last week. "Given its enormity, given its influence over people's lives and given its wide impact on our overall economy, you can see that there is much at stake in ensuring that it works properly for consumers."
Among the findings in the 48-page report:
* The three largest agencies were contacted eight-million times by consumers about disputed items in their credit report during 2011, ranging from allegations of mismatched personal information to identity theft to inaccurate debt collections.
* Nearly 40%, were linked to some form of debt collection.
* The study also found that consumers were the main group watching for accuracy of the reports, which is concerning since only one in five people check their reports in a given year.
* How credit agencies handle the disputes is also a "source of controversy," the report said. The agencies most often send the disputes back to the original data provider, called a "furnisher," which includes banks, credit unions and credit card companies, through an automated system of simple codes. The furnishers are required by law to investigate the disputes and then accurately report back to the agencies.
But the agencies rarely give the furnisher any paper documentation that the consumer provides and have only resolved disputes themselves about 15% of the time.
The CFPB said in the report that it has begun looking at how financial instituitons furnish information to the consumer reporting agencies when supervising the large banks.
-Rachel Witkowski of Sourcemedia contributed to this report.