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CFPB aids angry bank customers

By Claes Bell ·
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

According to a new report, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has spent a lot of time helping disgruntled bank customers since it started taking complaints about banking services in March.

Over that period, the agency received around 8,100 complaints about bad bank behavior, amounting to about 15 percent of total complaints it has received since opening its doors in July of last year. Of those, the largest percentage concerned problems with account management, including fees, denial of a bank account and other issues.

The CFPB's policy is to try and work out an amicable resolution between the customer and the bank before taking enforcement action. That approach seems to have worked fairly well so far for customers. According to the report, the CFPB was able to negotiate a resolution that satisfied the consumer who filed the complaint in 43 percent of cases. Only 15 percent of customers reported being unsatisfied by the settlement offered by their bank (42 percent are still pending).

In about a third of cases, those dispute resolutions included monetary relief. We're not talking about a huge amount of money; the median amount customers got was $105. That's tiny compared to the median amount recovered in student loan disputes, which came in at $1,597, but it's not nothing, and I think a lot of consumers will settle for an explanation and a check, even if it doesn't make them completely whole.

I do wonder whether there are a lot of consumers out there who are unaware that the CFPB is up and running and taking consumer complaints. That 8,100 figure is impressive for such a new agency, but it represents just a tiny percentage of the hundreds of millions of checking accounts in this country. Should that number increase dramatically, and I think it might as more people clue in to what the CFPB can do for them, it seems possible we'll see response times lengthen and banks become more reluctant to make concessions to those crowds of disgruntled customers looking for justice (and a hundred bucks).

What do you think? Have you dealt with the CFPB at all? Share your experience!

Follow me on Twitter: @ClaesBell

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