Got a beef with your bank and you can't get it resolved?
Don't sit there steaming. Complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal government's new financial watchdog.
The CFPB gets real relief for most people who file complaints about their bank, according to a new report from the advocacy group U.S. PIRG.
"The vast majority of complaints do get a response," said Laura Murray with U.S. PIRG's Education Fund. "Approximately 1 in 3 got some sort of tangible relief."
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The CFPB has been collecting consumer complaints about banks since last year. Those complaints are posted in a public Consumer Complaint Database after the company responds or after they have had the complaint for 15 calendar days, whichever comes first. The agency does not verify all the facts alleged in these complaints, but it does try to confirm a commercial relationship between the consumer and the company.
The agency posted nearly 19,000 complaints about bank accounts and services between March 2012 and July 2013, Most deal with checking account problems. For its report, U.S. PIRG analyzed this public information.
The U.S. PIRG study found:
- 95 percent of complaints were closed through the process.
- 28 percent of complaints about banking services processed by the CFPB ended with the consumer receiving some form of financial relief. That's more than 5,000 people who received monetary compensation to resolve their complaint. The median amount was $110.
- 5 percent received non-monetary relief, such as adjusting terms of their account or correcting an error.
- While banks respond to 95 percent of complaints, approximately 1 in every 5 resolutions is still disputed by the consumer.
But on a per-dollar basis, Minnesota-based TCF National Bank has the highest ratio of complaints to total deposits of any bank supervised by the CFPB—24.9 complaints per billion dollars of deposits. That's significantly higher than Sovereign Bank (9.1 complaints per billion of deposits) and Capital One Bank (6.5 complaints per billion) which ranked second and third.
TCF disputes the findings and calls PIRG's methodology "critically flawed and misleading."
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TCF believes the primary driver of complaints is the number of accounts, not the amount of deposits. In a statement to NBC News, the bank said it did so poorly because it has significantly more consumer accounts per billion of deposits than most other banks.
TCF noted that there were only 356 complaints for more than 2 million accounts over the 16-month period studied. During that time, TCF discontinued free checking which generated complaints and resulted in the return of free checking.
"TCF has been listening and responding to customer feedback long before it becomes part of the regulatory landscape," the statement said.