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CFPB releases card complaints

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

Talk about airing dirty laundry. The federal consumer watchdog on Tuesday released its database of credit card complaints for all to see.

While no individuals are identified, the big banks and issuers are. It's plain to see which is responding or not responding (or not responding in a timely manner) to a consumer complaint. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau's Scott Pluta says its goal is to "improve the transparency and efficiency of the credit card market to further empower American consumers."

Pluta, the chief of staff and acting assistant director for consumer response at CFPB, says the bureau is planning to make public all other consumer complaints it receives, from mortgages to other financial products and services.

Of course, not everyone is happy with the extensive disclosure. The American Bankers Association fired back saying that the database includes complaints that have not been verified and could be misleading to those reading the information.

"Publishing allegations is often different than publishing acts," said Kenneth Clayton, the trade group's executive vice president of legislative affairs and chief counsel, in a press release Tuesday. "The bureau itself acknowledges the complaints could be inaccurate, and in fact plans to disclaim their accuracy."

But John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com, sees only winners with the publication of the complaints. He believes that banks and issuers will be able to use the information to figure out where they need to improve, ultimately making their cardholders happier.

"It's a big deal for consumers because their voices will be heard in aggregate," he says. "And there's certainly power and strength in numbers when dealing with credit card issuers."

The data include complaints received since June 1. Each entry includes a complaint ID number, type of product (only credit cards now), how the complaint was submitted, date it was received, the ZIP code of the complainant, the issue, the date sent to the company, name of company, company response, whether the response was timely, and if the consumer disputed the response. The database is updated daily.

So far, the company with the most complaints filed is Capital One with 33 (Citibank follows with 27 and Chase with 24). Of those, the company has resolved 21 (17 with explanation and four with monetary relief). The rest are still in progress. Of the 17 complaints Capital One closed with explanation, the consumer is disputing the resolution. On the plus side, the issuer has responded to each complaint in a timely manner.

Bank of America is the only issuer that didn't respond in a timely manner in one instance, according to the database.

This is only a snapshot of not-even three weeks of data. The results likely will be different in the weeks to come. It will be interesting, though, to watch how the data evolve and to see if a clear winner and loser emerge.

You can bet that a lot of Americans will be watching. Will you?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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