Big banks, big complaints: CFPB database reveals trends
Thousands of Americans use the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public consumer complaints database to file disputes with their banks. Here’s a breakdown of the 19,000 complaints consumers have made against their banks and credit unions since the database was created.
A report from US PIRG Education Fund analyzes consumer complaints and banks were the worst offenders, breaking down the data state by state. The report, “Big banks, big complaints: the CFPB database obtains real results for consumers”, focuses specifically on consumer complaints regarding bank accounts and services.
The stated mission of the CFPB is “to identify dangerous and unfair financial practices, to educate consumers on these practices and to regulate the financial institutions that perpetuate them”. To help achieve these goals, the CFPB has created the consumer complaints database, a public repository for grievance files against financial institutions, and how those financial institutions have responded.
Since the launch of the banking database in March 2012, the CPFB has registered nearly 19,000 consumer complaints.
Checking accounts were by far the most common cause of consumer complaints. They were the subject of 78% of all complaints filed. Difficulties opening, closing or managing accounts were the most common problems consumers cited with banking services, followed by problems with deposits and withdrawals.
Banks with the most complaints
Twenty-five US banks account for over 90% of all complaints filed with the CFPB.
The banks that generated the most complaints nationwide are also the biggest banks in terms of billions of dollars deposited: Wells Fargo, BofA and JP Morgan Chase. But per dollar, the banks that generated the most complaints are TCF National Bank, Sovereign Bank and Capital One.
The Midwest-based TCF National has by far the ratio of complaints to total deposits among banks overseen by the CFPB, with 24.9 complaints per billion dollars of deposits. Sovereign (9.1 complaints per billion deposits) and Capital One (6.5 complaints per billion deposits) rank second and third, respectively.
TCF National ranked first for the complaints-to-deposit ratio for complaints related to checking and savings accounts, as well as for the five issues tracked by the CFPB.
Several banks performed poorly in several categories of banking services. Sovereign and Capital One, for example, ranked in the top 10 for the highest complaint-to-deposit ratio in the four major banking services: checks, savings, CDs and “other” services. Capital One has also had big issues with account management, deposits / withdrawals, low funds, payments and payments, and the use of ATMs or debit cards.
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Main financial institutions by total number of complaints
|Bank / credit union||Total number
in the depots
|Wells fargo||3 453||4.1|
|Bank of America||3 135||3.2|
|Fifth third bank||374||4.3|
|TCF National Bank||346||24.9|
|Huntington National Bank||172||3.7|
|First Niagara Bank||122||4.3|
|GE Capital Retail||103||5.7|
|Community Bank of New York||85||3.6|
Rank of complaints / deposits ratios by service
|Rank||CD||Check accounts||Other financier
Product / Service
|1||OneWest||TCF National||GE Capital||TCF National|
|2||Allied bank||Sovereign||Capital One||Barclays|
|3||Community Bank of New York||RBS citizens||Amex||Capital One|
|5||Pentagon FCU||TD Bank||Synovus||Pentagon FCU|
|7||Capital One||RBC Bank
from Puerto Rico
|8||Discover||Fifth third||Marine FCU||Community Bank of New York|
|ten||Premier Niagara||Premier Niagara||PNC||Marine FCU|
Rank ratio of complaints to deposits in the question
|Rank||Acct. opening, closing or
|Make or receive payments||Deposits or
|1||TCF National||TCF National||TCF National||TCF National||TCF National|
|2||Sovereign||GE Capital||Sovereign||RBS citizens||Sovereign|
|3||Capital One||Capital One||Capital One||TD Bank||GE Capital|
|4||Community Bank of New York||Valley National||People’s Bank||Regions||TD Bank|
|5||GE Capital Retail||USAA savings||GE Capital||Sovereign||Huntington|
|6||Premier Niagara||Ally||RBS citizens||Huntington||Capital One|
|7||RBS citizens||RBS citizens||USAA savings||FirstMerit||USAA savings|
|8||Fifth third||Sovereign||TD Bank||PNC||Synovus|
|ten||Ally||Fifth third||PNC||Capital One||RBS citizens|
Complaints by geographic region
Consumers filed 2.9 complaints for every $ 1 billion in deposits held by large national banks licensed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, compared to 2.3 complaints about large state-chartered banks overseen by the Federal Reserve for security and soundness reasons, and 1.6 complaints about large state-chartered banks whose security and soundness are controlled by the FDIC.
Based on the total number of complaints filed, Wells Fargo was the most frequently reported bank in 24 states. BofA was the most frequently criticized bank in five states, and Regions was the most frequently criticized bank in four states.
Vermont had the worst complaint-to-deposit ratio in the United States
How banks react
While banks respond to 95% of complaints, about one in five resolutions is still challenged by the consumer.
Banks’ responses to complaints vary depending on the issue raised by the complaint. Almost half of all complaints about an individual’s low funds were resolved with cash relief, compared to 28% of all complaints. Problems with low funds include overdraft fees, insufficient funds charges, and bad checks.
More than one in four complaints about the banking services handled by the CFPB resulted in some form of financial relief for the consumer. The CFPB claims to have helped more than 5,000 consumers to receive monetary compensation as part of their resolution. The median amount of monetary relief was $ 110.
About 1,000 consumers have had their complaints resolved with some form of non-cash relief, such as a bank contacting a credit bureau to request a change to a credit report.
An additional 5% resulted in non-cash relief for the consumer, such as adjustment of account conditions.
Banks vary in the extent to which complaints are resolved with monetary relief. TCF National responded to more than half of all complaints with offers of monetary relief, compared to just 4% of responses from New Orleans-based Whitney Bank.
Consumers were less likely to dispute responses from businesses that included monetary or non-monetary relief than other types of responses. Only one in nine consumers who received financial assistance contested the company’s response, compared to one in five consumers of all.
TCF National had the highest ratio of contested responses to deposits, followed by Sovereign and Capital One.
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Could the complaints database be more useful?
To make the public database more useful to consumers, the US PIRG report also discusses several changes the CFPB could make, such as developing a mobile app for consumers. The US PIRG also claims that the CFPB could make the consumer complaints database more user-friendly by adding – among other data – more narrative and detailed information on consumer complaints, including how they were resolved, reasons for any dispute and the manner in which such disputes were resolved.
“CFPB should also conduct more frequent trend analyzes and give users the tools to undertake their own data analyzes,” the report recommends. “The CFPB should also raise awareness of how to file complaints and access the consumer complaints database by working with prudential regulators to disseminate information about the complaints process to bank customers.”
Another recommendation is to expand the CFPB database to include separate complaint categories for high cost credit products such as payday loans and auto titles and prepaid cards.
You can download the entire 54-page PDF report, “Big banks, big complaints: the CFPB database obtains real results for consumers”, here on the US PIRG website (instant download, no registration required).