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Consumer Response interim report on CFPB’s credit card complaint data

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created when Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. A critical component of the CFPB’s work is its interface with the public, which includes listening and responding to consumers about financial products and services. As part of the CFPB’s July 21, 2011, launch, it established a Consumer Response office and a system for addressing consumer complaints.

The complaint system – which includes a toll-free number and a form on the CFPB website – began with a focus on credit cards. The CFPB chose this financial product because of its wide use, and because credit card problems have been historically among the highest kinds of consumer grievances.

This report summarizes the first three months of the CFPB’s Consumer Response complaint system and its work on credit card complaints. (1) Going forward, the Bureau plans to provide similar credit card complaint data reports as part of a formal credit card complaint data disclosure policy. The Bureau is publishing a proposal for that data disclosure at the same time as this interim report. As the complaint system matures and a formal policy is developed, future reports may present more detailed information.

In the CFPB’s first three months, less than half of the calls that Consumer Response handled resulted in the filing of a credit card complaint. Instead, most of the calls resulted in taking general feedback from consumers or directing consumers to credit card informational resources or just answering general questions about credit card processes.

Although the complaint system currently focuses on credit cards, consumers can still contact the CFPB about non-credit card issues. The Bureau answers those inquiries and makes sure the consumer is referred to the right resources. For example, Consumer Response directs distressed homeowners to the Homeowners HOPE™ Hotline; and Consumer Response directs homeowners who are servicemembers or veterans to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Home Loan Office. (2) The Bureau has also created a “Tell Your Story” feature on its website that gives consumers the opportunity to share their experiences – positive or negative. Those submissions help inform the Bureau’s overall work across financial products and services.

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1. In cooperation with other federal regulators, the CFPB has taken a phased approach to the scope of its Consumer Response. This approach enables the CFPB to staff and build the infrastructure and processes needed to provide a service that is trusted, easy to use, and effective. The CFPB will continue to improve the consumer complaint intake processes, enhance automated communication with companies, and ensure the system’s ease-of-use and effectiveness for consumers. Until Consumer Response has fully phased in all consumer financial products and services, certain complaints are being referred to other regulators for handling.

2. The Homeowners HOPE™ Hotline provides distressed homeowners free access to HUD-approved housing counseling agencies to assist with a range of needs such as financial counseling, budget management, options for loan modifications, and options for exiting the home. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides servicemembers and veterans with one-on-one assistance to help them avoid foreclosure.