CFPB Office of Servicemember Affairs publishes the 2020 annual report
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On May 6, 2021, the CFPB’s Office of Servicemember Affairs announced its eighth annual report Summary of its activities from January 1 to December 31, 2020. The report discussed the Office’s public relations and educational efforts, trends in complaints from service members and priorities for 2021.
The Office’s education area focused on specific economic challenges and resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including leniency programs and emergency grants. The office has also added a special military family learning module to its interactive financial education program, titled “Money Management Mishaps”. The program is free and available to all military personnel, including members of the National Guard and the Reserve.
The report also included an analysis of complaints from service members. In 2020, the CFPB received over 40,800 complaints from service members, an increase of 14% from 2019. The most common complaint categories were credit reports, collections and mortgages. The credit report was the main concern of the service members with 16,600 complaints. The vast majority of complaints related to inaccurate reporting or insufficient investigation of a dispute. The CFPB believed that the volume of complaints may be due in part to the fact that security reviews require routine credit checks.
The CFPB received 8,900 complaints related to the collection, more than half of which related to identity theft claims. The Bureau found that service members file collection complaints more often than non-service members. Another problem with debt collection involved leased telecommunications equipment such as internet, telephone, and cable equipment. This is an issue that uniquely affects service members due to deployment and frequent moves.
Of the 4,300 mortgage complaints received, the most common problem was the difficulty of the payment process. Additionally, the CFPB found that it continued to receive complaints from borrowers who received mailers about refinancing their VA loans, some of which were supposed to look like official government releases. The CFPB launched nine enforcement actions in 2020 against lenders who allegedly engaged in similar activities in violation of Mortgage Laws and Practices – Advertising Rule (MAP Rule) and Regulation Z (see our blog posts) Here, Here, Here, and Here).
Looking ahead to 2021, the report outlines the CFPB’s priorities, none of which are surprising as they resemble the broader policy initiatives outlined by the CFPB’s new leadership. First, the Office intends to continue to closely monitor the MLA complaints. This is in line with the change in the position of the Bureau regarding its authority to oversee creditors for compliance with MLA regulations and Acting Director Uejio blog entry The announcement that MLA compliance will be a major focus for the future. Second, COVID-19 relief will also be a key focus. Eventually, the office will also work to eradicate economic and racial inequality. While this is a wider focus For the CFPB, this is a particular concern for the service members and their families, as 31% of the active service members identify themselves as a racial minority.
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