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CFPB Special Monthly Complaint Report Highlights Companies’ Reponses to Consumer Complaints

On August 1, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or “Bureau”) released a “special edition” of its monthly complaint report. Rather than focus on particular financial products or markets like the Bureau’s standard monthly complaint reports, the special edition highlights how companies have responded to consumer complaints and consumers’ views of those responses and the process as a whole.

According to the report, the CFPB has fielded over 1.2 million consumer complaints. Between 2014 and 2016, the vast majority of complaints were submitted via the CFPB’s web portal, with debt collection, credit reporting, and mortgage complaints being the most common complaint categories.

The CFPB typically sends complaints to companies in less than one day. The report notes that since the Bureau’s launch, companies have responded in a timely manner (generally defined to mean within 15 days) to roughly 97% of these complaints across the board, with each product and service category reaching at least a 90% timely response rate. Of the categories of responses, “Closed with monetary relief,” “Closed with non-monetary relief,” “Closed with explanation,” and “Closed” are most typically used, with “Closed with explanation” accounting for 72% of responses. This may reflect that many consumer complaints derive not from a violation of law but from a consumer’s misunderstanding or frustration with a legal practice.

The CFPB report also examines consumers’ reactions to the complaint responses by looking at consumer disputes of those responses. The rates that consumers file disputes range from a low of 14% of company responses for prepaid cards, to a high of 23% of company responses for mortgages. In looking at these disputes, the Bureau concedes the limitations of dispute data, noting that this data “does not provide insight into the reasons why a consumer was dissatisfied with the company’s response to their complaint and . . . does not reflect the positive feedback consumers have about how companies have addressed their concerns.”

For more qualitative information about the complaint responses and the process more generally, the Bureau reviews narrative feedback from consumers; as the report notes, this consumer feedback also helps identify situations where the Bureau may want to investigate further. The report highlights specific consumer narratives expressing frustration at what the consumers saw as insufficient responses from the company, or thanking the Bureau for help in reaching a satisfactory resolution, though in all the quoted narratives, the consumers were generally pleased with the Bureau’s role in the process.

Finally, the report notes that the Bureau is seeking to share more useful consumer feedback with companies, though it does not detail specific steps or a timeline for doing so.

© 2017 Covington & Burling LLP

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About this Author

Jamie A. Heine, Covington, Financial Institutions Regulation Lawyer, Civil Litigation Attorney
Associate

Jamie A. Heine practices in the Litigation and Financial Institutions groups, where she defends clients in high-stakes civil lawsuits and helps clients navigate the increasingly-complicated web of financial regulation.

Ms. Heine represents financial institutions in complex civil litigation, and advises financial and non-financial institutions on a range of financial regulatory and enforcement matters.

She has experience advising clients on consumer protection issues, incentive-based executive compensation under the Dodd...

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