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Does complaining to CFPB work?

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Friday, March 29, 2013
Posted: 1 pm ET

Ever wondered what happens when you report a problem with a bank account to the Consumer Financial Protection  Bureau? New data seem to show you'll have a pretty good chance of getting your issue resolved.

This week, the CFPB published its database of complaints covering a number of financial products, including 15,265 complaints about checking accounts, savings and other bank products, going back a little more than a year.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • If you file a complaint with the CFPB, there's a fair chance you'll get some sort of financial compensation. Of the bank complaints received, 21 percent resulted in "monetary relief" for customers. All told, 34.5 percent of complaints were closed with some kind of relief.
  • The most common problems that bank account holders had were regarding "account opening, closing or management." They accounted for 40 percent of problems, followed issues with deposits and withdrawals at 29 percent and overdrafts at 17 percent.
  • When it comes to which banks got the most complaints, the largest banks predictably filled out the top 10, with Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in the top three spots.
  • Adjusted for bank size, the picture is much different. Minnesota-based TCF Bank led the pack with a whopping 21.24 complaints per $1 million in deposits, followed by Sovereign Bank with 6.72, RBS Citizens with 5.23, Regions Bank with 3.72 and TD Bank with 3.63.
  • If you filed a complaint with the CFPB in the last year, there's a good chance you hail from New York City. Of the 103 ZIP codes with the highest number of complaints, 39 were in the New York metropolitan area, followed by 14 in the Washington, D.C., area and nine in Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Some banks were more likely to respond in a timely manner than others. For banks with at least 10 complaints, UMB Bank, Regions Bank, Arvest Bank and E*Trade Bank were late the most often.

Overall, the data paint a picture of an agency making a good-faith effort to negotiate with banks on the part of consumers. And, that a log of complaints and resolutions is being released at all isn't what you'd expect from a federal agency.

What do you think? Have you ever reported a problem to the CFPB? What was your experience?

Follow me on Twitter: @ClaesBell.

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