By: Martha C. White
March 5, 2012
Ticked off at your bank? Finally, a sympathetic ear
As of March 1, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has opened a complaints department to collect all sorts of consumer gripes about their deposit accounts -- checking, savings, CDs and what the agency terms "related services." Here's how it works: Consumers can vent via the CFPB's website, phone, fax or snail mail. The bureau will give them a tracking number so they can check the status of their complaint online. Oh, and banks: You're on notice. According to a statement on its website, "The Bureau expects banks to respond to complaints within 15 days and seeks to close all complaints within 60 days."
Susan Weinstock, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts' Safe Checking in the Electronic Age project, says it's a good thing the CFPB is taking consumer complaints about bank accounts. A recent Pew study found that poor disclosures and a lack of transparency, especially when it comes to account fees, are a major reason people get fed up and leave mainstream banking.
"Consumers need someone on their side to keep banks and credit unions accountable--that is our job," CFPB director Richard Cordray says in a statement.
Here's an overview of what's fair game for this new venture: issues related to account openings and closings, deposits and withdrawals with a particular focus on debit card use, making and receiving payments and transferring funds, and issues with low account balances.
This is the third such "complaints desk" the CFPB has launched: It started taking credit card complaints as soon as it opened back in July and added mortgages and home loans to the list in December.
Michelle Person, a CFPB spokeswoman, says the number of banking complaints the bureau fielded on its inaugural day is similar to first-day numbers for credit card and mortgage complaints when the agency started logging those. If this is any indication of future volume, those CFPB staffers might want to brew another pot of coffee: They've collected 12,000 credit card and 7,000 mortgage complaints since last year.