(WASHINGTON, D.C. – CFPB) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently announced that consumer complaint volume nearly doubled from 91,000 complaints received in 2012 to 163,700 complaints received in 2013. The CFPB’s Consumer Response Annual Report also highlighted the many issues the CFPB is helping consumers address – from foreclosure alternatives to simply receiving better customer service.
“Consumer complaints have become central to the work of this agency. They enable us to listen to, and amplify, the concerns of any American who wants to be heard,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “They are also our compass. They make a difference by informing our work and helping us identify and prioritize problems for potential action.”
The 2013 Consumer Response Annual Report can be found at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/reports/2013-consumer-response-annual-report/
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the CFPB, established the handling of consumer complaints as an integral part of the CFPB’s work. When the Bureau opened its doors on July 21, 2011, it began consumer response operations the same day, accepting consumer complaints about credit cards. Since then, the Bureau has expanded its complaint handling in 2012 to include complaints about mortgages, bank accounts and services, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, and credit reporting. In 2013, it began taking complaints on money transfers, debt collection, and payday loans.
Today’s report covers the 163,700 complaints received by the CFPB from Jan. 1, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2013. This is an 80 percent increase over the previous year’s 91,000 complaints. To date, including this year, the CFPB has received more than 310,000 complaints overall. According to the report, the top three complaints in 2013 by consumers were:
Mortgages: The number one most complained about consumer product was mortgages, accounting for 37 percent of overall complaints. For these approximately 60,000 complaints, consumers were most concerned with problems when they were unable to pay, such as issues relating to loan modifications, collections, or foreclosures.
Debt collection: Debt collection was the second most complained about category, accounting for 19 percent of overall complaints even though the Bureau did not begin accepting debt collection complaints until July 2013. For the approximately 31,000 debt collection complaints, consumers were most concerned with collectors attempting to collect debt not owed, communication tactics by the collectors, and collectors taking or threatening illegal action.
Credit reporting: The number three most complained about category was credit reporting, accounting for about 15 percent of overall complaints. For the approximately 24,000 complaints about credit reporting, nearly three out of four consumers were concerned with incorrect information on their credit report.
The Bureau expects companies to respond to complaints within 15 days and to describe the steps they have taken or plan to take. The CFPB expects companies to close all but the most complicated complaints within 60 days. Companies have responded to more than 93 percent of the complaints sent to them for response, and consumers have disputed only 21 percent of those company responses.
Sometimes, companies respond through non-monetary relief. About 11 percent of complaints fall into this category; for credit reporting complaints, companies respond to about one out of three complaints this way. Through the CFPB’s complaint process, consumers have received a range of non-monetary relief in response to their complaints, such as:
Foreclosure alternatives: Consumers have received mortgage foreclosure alternatives that help them keep their home;
Protection from debt collectors: After CFPB inquiries, debt collectors have stopped engaging in excessive collection communications with consumers;
Restored lines of credit: Consumers have had their credit lines restored when they wanted, or removed when that was their desired outcome;
Corrections to credit reports: Consumers have had their credit reports cleaned up either by having correct submissions given to credit bureaus or by having credit bureaus correct inaccurate information about their consumer accounts; and
Customer service: Many consumer problems are related to unanswered inquiries or incorrect information. After CFPB involvement, many customers had their formerly unmet customer service issues finally resolved.
The Bureau has also seen monetary relief for consumers in about 7 percent of complaints. This includes:
A median amount of $460 for mortgages;
A median amount of $126 for credit cards; and
A median amount of $111 for bank accounts or services.
Information about consumer complaints is available to the public through the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaint Database. A complaint is listed in the database after the company responds to the complaint or after the company has had the complaint for 15 calendar days, whichever comes first. If a company demonstrates within 15 days that it has been wrongly identified, no data for that complaint is posted. The database is updated nightly and includes anonymized complaint information. The database enables the public to see what is being complained about and why; and it enables consumer groups to identify troublesome trends.
Complaints inform the Bureau’s work and help to identify problems, which then feed into the Bureau’s supervision and enforcement prioritization process.
The Bureau will continue to work toward expanding its complaint handling capabilities to include other products and services under its authority, such as prepaid cards.
To submit a complaint, consumers can:
Go online at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint
Call the toll-free phone number at 1-855-411-CFPB (2372) or TTY/TDD phone number at 1-855-729-CFPB (2372)
Fax the CFPB at 1-855-237-2392
Mail a letter to: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, Iowa 52244
Additionally, through “Ask CFPB,” consumers can get clear, unbiased answers to their questions at consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb or by calling 1-855-411-CFPB (2372).