WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a monthly complaint snapshot highlighting consumer complaints about student loans. The snapshot shows that both private and federal student loan borrowers nationwide report persistent servicing breakdowns that may sideline their path to repayment. This month’s report also highlights trends seen in complaints coming from Nevada. As of April 1, 2017, the Bureau had handled approximately 1,163,200 consumer complaints across all products.
"Student loan servicers play an important role in helping millions of people manage the loans they take out to pursue an education," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "Unfortunately, borrowers continue to report difficulties and setbacks as they try to work with their servicers to manage their loan debt."
Category Spotlight: Student Loans
At $1.4 trillion, student loan debt represents the U.S.’s second largest debt market behind mortgages. More than 44 million student loan borrowers rely on the companies servicing their loans to manage all aspects of repayment, including providing borrowers with available repayment options when they are struggling to repay their loans. In September 2015, the Bureau released a report outlining widespread servicing failures and sloppy, patchwork practices reported by both federal and private student loan borrowers. As of April 1, 2017, the Bureau had handled approximately 44,400 student loan complaints from consumers. Some of the findings in the snapshot include:
- Consumers complain about poor information from and sloppy practices by servicers: Of all the complaints the Bureau receives about student loans, over half—64 percent—are about problems consumers experience when dealing with their student loan servicer. Consumers who reach out to their servicer complain they are not informed about options that would allow them to continue repaying their loan, such as income-driven repayment plans. Rather, consumers complain that their servicer directs them into plans that suspend repayment and cause the interest on their loans to pile up. Consumers also complain that their monthly student loan payments are misapplied by the servicer, which the Bureau believes can cause a range of problems including negative credit reporting and loss of certain loan benefits, such as cosigner release for private student loans.
- Consumers complain about difficulty enrolling and staying in an income-driven repayment plan: Consumers complain about processing delays and inaccurate denials when submitting an income-driven repayment plan application to their servicer. These complaints include documents being lost by the servicer, application processing times spanning several months, missed payment towards loan forgiveness, and unclear guidance when enrolling into a new income-driven repayment plan. Additionally, consumers complain of receiving insufficient information from their servicers to meet recertification deadlines for their income-driven repayment plan.
- Consumers report confusion about their progress toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs: Consumers express concerns about their standing in Public Service Loan Forgiveness and other loan forgiveness programs. These borrowers complain that after years of making payments, they learn that their loans are not enrolled in a qualifying repayment plan, despite borrowers telling their servicers that they were pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Other borrowers complain that their servicer did not explain that consolidating their loans would wipe out all previous progress made towards loan forgiveness.
- Companies with the most student loan-related complaints: The three companies that the Bureau has received the most average monthly student loan complaints about are Navient Solutions, LLC, Fedloan Servicing/AES, and Nelnet.
The Bureau has also reported on consumer complaints to highlight the unique challenges that certain populations of consumers with student loan debt face, including older Americans, servicemembers, veterans with disabilities, and previously defaulted borrowers.
National Complaint Overview
As of April 1, 2017, the CFPB had handled approximately 1,163,200 complaints nationally. Some of the findings from the statistics being published in this month’s snapshot report include:
- Complaint volume: For March 2017, debt collection was the most-complained-about financial product or service. Of the approximately 28,000 complaints handled in March, there were 8,711 complaints about debt collection. The second most-complained-about consumer product was credit reporting, which accounted for 5,498 complaints. Mortgages were third most-complained-about financial product or service, accounting for 3,965 complaints.
- Product trends: In a year-to-year comparison examining the three-month time period of January to March, student loan complaints showed the greatest increase—325 percent—of any product or service. The Bureau received 773 student loan complaints between January and March 2016, while it received 3,284 complaints during the same time period in 2017. Part of this year-to-year increase can be attributed to the CFPB updating its student loan complaint form to accept complaints about federal student loan servicing, starting in late February 2016. The Bureau also initiated an enforcement action against a large student loan servicer during the time period covered by this report.
- State information: Montana, Georgia, and Wyoming experienced the greatest year-to-year complaint volume increases from January to March 2017, versus the same time period 12 months before; with Montana up 54 percent, Georgia up 46 percent, and Wyoming up 45 percent.
- Most-complained-about companies: The top three companies that received the most complaints from November 2016 through January 2017 were Navient Solutions, LLC, Equifax, and Experian.
Geographic Spotlight: Nevada
This month, the CFPB highlighted complaints from Nevada and the Las Vegas metro area. As of April 1, 2017, consumers in Nevada have submitted 14,600 of the 1,163,200 complaints the CFPB has handled. Of those complaints, 10,800 came from consumers in the Las Vegas metro area. Findings from the Nevada complaints include:
- Rate of debt collection complaints similar to the national average: Complaints related to debt collection accounted for 29 percent of all complaints submitted by consumers from Nevada. This is slightly higher than the rate of 27 percent at which consumers nationally submit debt collection complaints to the Bureau.
- Rate of mortgage complaints mirrors the national average: Complaints related to mortgages accounted for 23 percent of all complaints submitted by consumers from Nevada, which is identical to the national rate of mortgage complaints submitted.
- Most-complained-about companies: Wells Fargo, Experian, and Equifax were the most-complained-about companies from consumers in Nevada.
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, 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 the 60 days companies have to respond to complaints, 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).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) 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 www.consumerfinance.gov.