Jun 18, 2020 - Economy

CFPB complaints spiked by 31% in first months of 2020 as Americans sought coronavirus relief

Shoppers wear facemasks at the Mall of America

Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Consumer complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rose 31% in the first five months of 2020, compared with the same period last year, with many complaints specifically mentioning the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of play: Through May 31, the CFPB received 142,782 complaints, according to an analysis of the bureau's records by NerdWallet.

What it means: "The CFPB relays consumer complaints about loans, credit cards, bank accounts and other financial products to financial institutions."

  • "Among 2020 complaints explicitly mentioning 'covid' or related terms, 'struggling to pay mortgage' was the top issue."

Why it matters: The study suggests the lower-than-expected number of Americans taking advantage of mortgage forbearance and other financial hardship programs may be due to a lack of knowledge rather than a lack of interest.

Watch this space: Nearly 15 million credit cards and 3 million auto loans were placed in financial hardship programs in April and 8.6% of mortgage holders were in forbearance as of June 15.

  • Those numbers are both much higher than in previous months, but well below the expectations of economists, given the extreme job losses since March.
  • A Fannie Mae national housing survey in May found that only half of mortgage holders and a third of renters were aware of relief programs.
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