New monthly reports distill consumer beefs about banks

Annie Baxter Jul 17, 2015

This week the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published its first monthly report highlighting trends in consumer complaints about financial services companies.

The agency was born out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and was launched in 2011. Handling consumer complaints related to issues like debt collections and banking services is a key part of its mission. The CFPB says in its four years of existence, it has handled 650,000 consumer complaints, and its enforcement work has resulted in more than $10 billion in relief for more than 17 million consumers. 

Consumer advocate Ed Mierzwinski with U.S. Public Interest Research Group says the CFPB’s new monthly report provides a kind of dashboard summarizing complaints.

“So every month, the CFPB is going to say which are the worst companies, and then it’s going to drill down into a specific kind of company, and finally it’s going to look at geographical trends,” he says.

Rankings are based on volume of complaints. The credit reporting agencies Equifax and Experian had the most over a three-month period earlier this year. Bank of America came in third. 

“They’re basically in the shaming of banks business by providing what I call a ‘David Letterman Top 10 List’ of complaints,” says Richard Hunt, president of the Consumer Bankers Association.

Hunt is dissatisfied with the CFPB’s methods of substantiating consumers’ beefs. And he says the largest institutions will naturally rack up the most complaints.

“I could’ve saved the CFPB a lot of taxpayer money deducing that,” he says.

In written remarks yesterday, CFPB Director Richard Cordray said the agency is assessing how it can “‘normalize’ complaint data for size and volume, among other things.'”

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