CFPB Monthly Complaint Snapshot Spotlights Prepaid Product Complaints

Report Also Includes In-Depth Look at Consumer Complaints from North Carolina

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a monthly complaint snapshot highlighting consumer complaints about prepaid products. The report shows that consumers continue to experience issues trying to manage their accounts and access funds. This month’s report also highlights trends seen in complaints coming from North Carolina. As of Oct. 1, 2016 the Bureau has handled approximately 1,008,500 complaints across all products. 

“For many unbanked and underbanked consumers, prepaid products are a vital source of financial security,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We want to make sure consumers using prepaid products can easily access their funds and companies are working to resolve consumers’ issues.”

The Monthly Complaint Report can be found at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/data-research/research-reports/monthly-complaint-report-vol-16/

Category Spotlight: Prepaid Products

Prepaid products present an important financial alternative to consumers who are unable to utilize a traditional checking account. By loading funds onto prepaid cards, consumers can make payments, withdraw cash, receive direct deposits from employers, and send funds to other consumers. Last month the CFPB finalized rules requiring financial institutions offering prepaid products to limit consumers’ losses when funds are stolen or cards are lost as well as new Know Before You Owe disclosures for prepaid accounts. As of Oct. 1, 2016, the Bureau had handled approximately 6,000 prepaid product complaints. Some of the findings in the report include:

  • Consumers complain of unauthorized transactions: Consumers frequently complained about transactions they did not recognize appearing on their accounts. Some of these consumers complained that when they submitted a dispute to the company about a transaction, their card would be cancelled without notice.
  • Complaints about registering prepaid cards: Consumer complained about difficulty registering and using their cards after purchasing them. Consumers would often be informed that their card was inaccurately registered and be asked to submit difficult to obtain documentation such as the original packaging the card came in and sales receipts.
  • Consumers complain of trouble resolving problems: Consumers complained that when they submitted claims about stolen funds, they experienced prolonged investigations, leaving them unable to access the funds on their frozen account. Additionally, consumers complained about lengthy delays in receiving credit on their cards after notifying the company of a fraudulent or unauthorized transaction.
  • Most-complained-about companies: American Express, PayPal Holdings, Inc., and NetSpend Corporation were the three companies about which the CFPB has received the most prepaid product complaints.

More information on prepaid accounts can be found at: consumerfinance.gov/prepaid

National Complaint Overview

As of Oct. 1, 2016, the CFPB has handled approximately 1,008,500 complaints nationally. Some of the findings from the statistics being published in this month’s snapshot report include:

  • Complaint volume: For September 2016, debt collection was the most-complained-about financial product or service. Of the approximately 26,000 complaints handled in September, there were 7,352 complaints about debt collection. The second most-complained-about consumer product was credit reporting, which accounted for 4,715 complaints. The third most-complained-about financial product or service was mortgages, accounting for 4,501 complaints.
  • Product trends: In a year-to-year comparison examining the three-month time period of July to September, student loan complaints showed the greatest increase—96 percent—of any product or service. The Bureau received 1,248 student loan complaints between July and September 2016, while it received 638 complaints during the same time period in 2015.
  • State information: New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming experienced the greatest year-to-year complaint volume increases from the July to September 2016 period versus the same time period 12 months before. New Mexico was up 28 percent, and Colorado and Wyoming up 24 percent.
  • Most-complained-about companies: The top three companies that received the most complaints from July through September 2016 were credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Geographic Spotlight: North Carolina

This month, the CFPB highlighted complaints from North Carolina and the Charlotte metro area.  As of Oct. 1, 2016, consumers in North Carolina have submitted 27,600 of the 1,008,500 complaints the CFPB has handled, with 8,000 of them coming from the Charlotte metro area. Findings from the North Carolina complaints include:

  • Rate of debt-collection-related complaints lower than the national rate: Complaints related to debt collection accounted for 25 percent of all complaints submitted by consumers from North Carolina and 26 percent of complaints from Charlotte. This is slightly lower than the rate at which consumers nationally submit debt collection complaints to the CFPB—27 percent.
  • Rate of mortgage related complaints higher than the national rate: Complaints related to mortgages accounted for 26 percent of all complaints submitted by consumers from North Carolina and 27 percent of complaints from Charlotte. This is slightly higher than the rate at which consumers nationally submit mortgage complaints to the CFPB—25 percent.
  • Most complained about companies: In the August 2015 to July 2016 time period, the three most complained about companies by consumers from North Carolina were Equifax, Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

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.

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.