Frustrated with your bank? You're not alone. According to a new analysis from the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan, or PIRGIM, consumers logged more than 19,000 complaints about bank accounts and banking services in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's online database from March 2012 to July 2013.
Eric S. Mosher, program associate of the PIRGIM Education Fund, says the database is more than a place where angry consumers can highlight their frustrations. It also can serve as a guide for consumers who are comparing banks to understand which institutions are delivering the best and worst service.
"Thanks to the CFPB's complaints database, consumers who get misled or exploited by their banks can make their voices heard and get satisfaction," Mosher says. "Other consumers can view the public database and make smarter, more informed financial choices."
If consumers heed Mosher's advice, some of the biggest banks in the country are bound to start missing out on acquiring new customers. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. were the three most frequently cited members of the banking industry in the database. But to be fair, PIRGIM adjusted the report to showcase another picture: the ratio of complaints to the amount of cash deposited in the institution. When adjusted, the usual suspects are replaced by a clear frontrunner. Minnesota-based TCF Bank has a whopping 24.9 complaints per $1 billion in deposits.
So what has all these people upset? In most cases, these complaints are tied to their checking accounts. With nearly 15,000 complaints about checking programs, consumers filed reports about problems with opening, closing and managing their accounts; challenges with overdrafts; and a range of other issues.
Does filing a report actually do anything? In plenty of cases, it turns out that the answer is yes. More than 25 percent of complaints processed by the CFPB ended with consumers receiving some kind of monetary settlement from the bank. Those settlements aren't small, either: The average amount was $110.
While the database seems to be helping consumers, Mosher and PIRGIM are urging the CFPB to make the database even easier to use, with more data and mobile applications that would allow account holders to report problems via their smartphones.
Have you ever filed a complaint against your bank with the CFPB? Was it resolved quickly?