Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

February 24, 2015

Consumer Thoughts on Credit Reports

By David Reiss

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a report, Consumer Voices on Credit Reports and Scores. This report builds on other recent work from the CFPB about how much people really understand about consumer finance. The answer — they still have a lot to brush up on. The CFPB conducted a series of focus groups about credit reports and credit scores. The CFPB concluded that

that many consumers are interested in and concerned about credit reports and scores. We found that some of the consumers we talked to expressed confusion about the best way to access credit reports and scores, what makes up credit reports and scores, and how to improve their scores. Some of the consumers we spoke to often do not feel empowered to take action to improve their credit histories, to use their credit reports and scores to negotiate better credit terms, or, ultimately, to use credit reports and scores as a helpful tool in achieving their financial goals.
The diversity of consumer perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors we heard around credit reports and scores suggests that there is much work to do in helping consumers understand and manage this complicated financial topic. Because consumers have a wide range of knowledge about and perceptions of credit reports and scores, there is no single message or approach to encourage consumers to engage more fully with their credit histories.
However, consumer perspectives on credit reports do suggest that many consumers feel that the credit reports are “hard to get, and hard to read.” Efforts by credit reporting agencies to make it easier for consumers to access and interpret their reports could be a useful contribution tohelping consumers navigate their credit histories.
The growing number of financial services companies that provide their customers with regular access to their credit scores on monthly credit card statements or online provides an opportunity to engage consumers around their credit reports. Once consumers see their credit scores, they may be motivated to learn more about their credit histories, check their full credit reports, and take action to improve their credit reports and scores. (19)
I am happy to see that the CFPB is trying to understand where consumers are at in terms of their financial literacy. This should help them to target their financial education efforts realistically. The report notes that the subject of credit reports is a complicated one. The mortgage application process is far, far more complicated so this report gives us a sense of how much work is to be done for consumers to achieve financial well-being.
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