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CFPB Launches New Monthly Report Series Analyzing Trends in Consumer Complaints

hands-writing1The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Thursday published the first in a new series of monthly reports that highlight key trends found in the complaints the consumers submit to the Bureau.

The monthly reports will provide the public and the marketplace with insight into the hundreds of thousands of complaints the CFPB receives from consumers on financial products and services.

The Dodd-Frank Act, out of which the CFPB was created in 2011, established consumer complaint handling as an integral part of the Bureau's mission. The CFPB began handling consumer complaints as soon as it opened its doors in July 2011 and currently accepts complaints on credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers, debt collection, and payday loans. The CFPB has handled 650,700 complaints as of July 1, 2015.

"Consumer complaints are the CFPB’s compass and play a central role in everything we do. They help us identify and prioritize problems for potential action," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said. "These monthly reports will enable us to share that data with the public more regularly, so that everyone can benefit from the information."

Recognizing the need for more context for the consumer complaints the Bureau receives, the Five Star Institute and Black Knight Financial Services issued a report in April titled "Analysis and Study of CFPB Consumer Complaint Data Related to Mortgage Servicing Activities" seeking to provide context and insight to those complaints by comparing the two predominant mortgage complaint categories, servicing and default, with loan trends. At the time the report was issued, Five Star President and CEO Ed Delgado said, "Through the data lens, we can clearly examine operational efficiency and defect while measuring progress in providing quality service to homeowners."

The CFPB's new monthly reports will contain similar information to the annual reports the Bureau began publishing when it began taking complaints. They will provide the public and marketplace with a high-level snapshot and analysis of trends found in the consumer complaints. Each monthly report will spotlight a particular product and geographic location, according to the CFPB. The first report highlights debt collection complaints received from consumers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Information included in the monthly reports includes:

  • Complaint volume: The top category for complaints received in June 2015 was debt collection with about 32 percent of the complaints received (more than 7,400 out of about 23,000).For June 2015, the most-complained-about financial product or service was debt collection, representing about 32 percent of complaints submitted. Mortgages was the category with the second-highest number of complaints, with more than 4,700.
  • Product trends: Complaints on loans increased the most year-over-year, from about 660 last year at this time to an average of about 1,020 complaints per month.
  • State information: The three states that experienced the greatest increase in complaint volume from the same time last year were Hawaii (41 percent), West Virginia (38 percent), and Maine (38 percent). The three states that experienced the greatest decline in complaint volume since last year were South Dakota, Iowa, and Rhode Island (40, 14, and 12 percent, respectively.
  • Most-complained-about companies: The three companies that the CFPB received the most complaints regarding during the period of February through April 2015 were Equifax, Experian, and Bank of America (company-level information should be considered in the context of company size). The company that experienced the largest increase in average monthly complaint volume year-over-year was Equifax, at 8 percent; the company that experienced the largest decrease was mortgage servicer Ocwen, with a 29 percent drop.

The CFPB expects companies to respond to complaints within 15 days and describe what steps they have taken or plan to take toward a resolution, and the Bureau expects all but the most complicated complaints to be resolved within 60 days.

In June 2012, the Bureau launched its Consumer Complaint Database, which includes basic, anonymous, individual-level information about complaints received. Until recently, the database included information such as date of submission, consumer's zip code, the relevant company, product type, the issue, and how the company handled the complaint; the CFPB recently changed the database to allow consumers to publish narratives about their complaints.

Click here to see the CFPB's Monthly Complaint Report. Click here to see the CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database, where more individual-level complaint data and narratives of consumers' experiences are available.

Editor's note: The Five Star Institute is the parent company of DS News and DSNews.com.

About Author: Brian Honea

Brian Honea's writing and editing career spans nearly two decades across many forms of media. He served as sports editor for two suburban newspaper chains in the DFW area and has freelanced for such publications as the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Dallas Home Improvement magazine, and the Dallas Morning News. He has written four non-fiction sports books, the latest of which, The Life of Coach Chuck Curtis, was published by the TCU Press in December 2014. A lifelong Texan, Brian received his master's degree from Amberton University in Garland.
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