CFPB Complaint Snapshot Spotlights Money Transfer Complaints

Bureau Marks Over One Million Consumer Complaints Handled

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a monthly complaint snapshot highlighting consumer complaints about money transfers. The report shows that consumers continue to experience issues when attempting to resolve problems with disputed transactions. This month’s report also highlights trends seen in complaints coming from Pennsylvania. As of September 2016, the Bureau has handled over one million consumer complaints.

"Since opening our doors in 2011, we have handled over one million complaints from consumers about their problems with financial products and services,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Not only have we achieved substantial relief for consumers, but hearing directly from consumers is fundamental to our mission. We can better protect all consumers because of what we learn from those who have submitted complaints and shared their experiences with us.”

The Monthly Complaint Report can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/092016_cfpb_MonthlyComplaintReportVol15.pdf

When the Bureau opened its doors in July 2011, it began accepting credit card complaints submitted by consumers online, over the phone, and through the mail. Since then, the Bureau has continually expanded its complaint handling to include a wide variety of financial products and services including mortgages, bank accounts, debt collection, and more. The now over one million complaints handled by the CFPB has resulted in millions of dollars in monetary relief to consumers as well as non-monetary relief, such as cleaning up credit reports or correcting the terms of a loan.  Consumer complaints also help inform the Bureau of problems in the financial marketplace.

Category Spotlight: Money Transfer

Every year, tens of billions of dollars are sent both domestically and abroad through money transfer services. Consumers send funds in order to make payments, and to help family and friends pay for important needs such as school fees, rent for elderly relatives, and other necessary living expenses. As of Sept. 1, 2016, the Bureau had handled approximately 6,900 money transfer complaints. Some of the findings in the snapshot include:

Consumers struggle to access funds: Consumers complained of holds being placed on their accounts by money transfer service providers without an explanation. While money transfer service providers report that holds are the result of using a risk-based model that will hold reserves or chargebacks, consumers operating small businesses indicate that these holds harm their ability to conduct routine business operations and impact their financial lives more broadly.

Consumers report problems resolving errors: Consumers attempting to complete transactions through an online money transfer service often report encountering problems with the dispute resolution process. Sellers describe several scenarios where they do not receive payments after sending the item to the buyer. This often occurs when the seller is told that the payment has been accepted but is later cancelled. Cancellation is done either by the buyer directly due to a dispute, or by their financial institution due to insufficient funds in the buyer’s account. Sellers often indicate money transfer service providers will debit a seller's account without guaranteeing that the buyer will return the item to the seller.

Consumers report being victims of fraud: 41 percent of money transfer complaints were related to being victims of fraud. A common complaint submitted by consumers is that they send money to a seller but do not receive the items they purchased in return.

National Complaint Overview

In September 2016, the Bureau surpassed handling over one million complaints. Some of the findings from the statistics being published in this month’s snapshot report include:

  • Complaint volume: For August 2016, debt collection was the most-complained-about financial product or service. Of the 28,651 complaints handled in July, there were 9,746 complaints about debt collection. The second most-complained-about consumer product was credit reporting, which accounted for 5,123 complaints. The third most-complained-about financial product or service was mortgages, accounting for 4,310 complaints.
  • Product trends: In a month-to-month comparison, complaints about debt collection submitted to the Bureau rose 50 percent between July and August 2016. While there were 6,488 debt collection complaints submitted to the Bureau in July, the CFPB received 9,746 debt collection complaints in the month of August.
  • State information: Maine, Nebraska, and Idaho experienced the greatest year-to-year complaint volume decreases from June to August 2016 period versus the same time period 12 months before; with Maine down 36 percent, Nebraska down 19 percent, and Idaho down 15 percent.
  • Most-complained-about companies: The top three companies that received the most complaints from April through June 2016 were credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Geographic Spotlight: Pennsylvania

This month, the CFPB highlighted complaints from Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia metro area. As of Sept. 1, 2016, consumers in Pennsylvania have submitted 34,700 complaints, with 24,100 of them coming from the Philadelphia metro area. Findings from Pennsylvania complaints include:

  • Debt collection is the most-complained-about product or service: Consumers in Pennsylvania most often submitted complaints about debt collection. Debt collection complaints accounted for 26 percent of the complaints submitted to the Bureau by consumers from Pennsylvania, while nationally debt collection complaints account for 27 percent of complaints.
  • Rate of mortgage-related complaints in Philadelphia higher than the national rate: Complaints related to mortgages accounted for 26 percent of all complaints submitted by consumers from the Philadelphia metro area and 22 percent of complaints from Pennsylvanians as a whole. The Philadelphia metro area figure is slightly higher than the national rate of 25 percent.
  • Most-complained-about companies: From July 2015 to June 2016 , the three most complained about companies by consumers from Pennsylvania were Equifax, TransUnion, and Wells Fargo.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the CFPB, established consumer complaint handling as an integral part of the CFPB’s work. The CFPB began accepting complaints as soon as it opened its doors in July 2011. It currently accepts complaints on many consumer financial products, including credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts and services, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers, debt collection, and payday loans.

In June 2012, the CFPB launched its Consumer Complaint Database, which is the nation’s largest public collection of consumer financial complaints. When consumers submit a complaint they have the option to share publicly their explanation of what happened. For more individual-level complaint data and to read consumers' experiences, visit the Consumer Complaint Database at: www.consumerfinance.gov/complaintdatabase/.

Company-level complaint data in the report uses a three-month rolling average of complaints sent by the Bureau to companies for response. This data lags other complaint data in this report by two months to reflect that companies are expected to close all but the most complicated complaints within 60 days. After the CFPB forwards a complaint to a company, the company also has 15 days to respond, confirming a commercial relationship with the consumer. Company-level information should be considered in the context of company size.

A blog post in observance of the Bureau handling over one million consumer complaints can be found here: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/what-happens-you-counts/

To submit a complaint, consumers can:

  • Go online at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/
  • Call the toll-free phone number at 1-855-411-CFPB (2372) or TTY/TDD phone number at 1-855-729-CFPB (2372)
  • Fax the CFPB at 1-855-237-2392
  • Mail a letter to: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, Iowa 52244
  • Additionally, through “Ask CFPB,” consumers can get clear, unbiased answers to their questions at consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb or by calling 1-855-411-CFPB (2372).

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.