On August 1, the CFPB published a Notice and Request for Comment on its new information collection, “Consumer Response Company Response Survey” in the Federal Register. According to the Federal Register notice, the “purpose of [the] information collection is to incorporate a short survey into the complaint closing process.” The survey would replace the current “dispute” option, and is designed to give consumers an opportunity to provide feedback on how a company responded to and handled their complaints. Consumers would have the opportunity to rate the company on a scale of one to five, and provide a narrative description in support of the rating. The CFPB has released a survey mock up, which includes an opt-in option for consumers to consent to the CFPB publishing their feedback on the agency website. The CFPB intends to share survey results with the companies. Written responses to the CFPB’s Request for Comment are due by September 30, 2016.
On August 18, the CFPB published a report to provide a midyear update on student loan complaints, focusing on “problems for borrowers who submit an application to enroll in or recertify income and family size under an income-driven-repayment (IDR) plan.” The report analyzes student borrower complaints related to IDR plans and offers recommendations to “address the challenges identified in [those] complaints.” The report analyzes complaints submitted from October 1, 2015 through May 31, 2016 and finds that “borrowers encounter obstacles when submitting applications for IDR plans, including poor customer service, unexpected delays, lost paperwork, and inconsistent or inaccurate application processing.” The CFPB recommends that student loan servicers take “immediate action,” to address challenges with IDR processing, highlighting the policy guidance recently issued by the Department of Education as a “roadmap to strengthen practices related to the handling of IDR applications” and releasing an IDR Application Fix It Form (Fix It Form). Developed by the CFPB, the Fix It Form is a prototype that can be adopted by servicers seeking to adopt the recommendations in the report and is designed to “document any deficiencies with borrowers’ IDR applications and communicates to borrowers about how to address the deficiencies and get their applications back on track.”
On July 26, the CFPB released its most recent monthly complaint report, which provides a high-level snapshot of consumer complaint trends. The current report highlights credit card complaints. According to the report, between July 21, 2011 and July 1, 2016, the CFPB handled approximately 97,100 credit card-related complaints, making credit cards the fourth most complained about product. The report identifies billing disputes, identity theft/fraud/embezzlement, and “other” complaints as the three most common types of credit card-related complaints. The report states that, with respect to complaints related to credit decisions, consumers frequently complain about difficulty in understanding initial application decisions and servicing changes (such as interest rate adjustments and credit limit reductions). Credit card complaints described in the report also include (i) confusion over payment allocation relating to promotional and deferred interest balances; (ii) frustration with late fees and additional costs; and (iii) difficulty understanding the terms and conditions of rewards and obtaining benefits.
With respect to consumer complaints generally, the report’s “Geographic spotlight” section focuses on Washington and the Seattle metro area. The report notes that, as of July 1, Washington consumers have submitted 18,900 complaints, with approximately 11,000 of those from Seattle consumers. At 29%, mortgage loans are the most-complained-about product in Washington, with debt collection and credit reporting trailing at 27% and 15%, respectively. Across all products and throughout the nation, the CFPB has handled approximately 930,800 complaints.
On July 20, the CFPB published an overview of the consumer complaints it handled between July 2011 and July 2016. According to the overview, the CFPB has handled almost one million consumer complaints, the majority of which relate to either mortgages or debt collection. The CFPB has also handled a significant number of complaints related to the following: (i) bank accounts and services, most commonly about opening, closing, or managing bank accounts; (ii) credit cards, in particular billing disputes; and (iii) credit reporting, most often involving reporting errors in credit reports.
On June 30, the CFPB published its ninth Semi-Annual Report to Congress covering supervisory and enforcement actions, rulemaking activities, newly designed consumer tools, and published reports from October 1, 2015 through March 31, 2016. The Semi-Annual Report provides an overview of relevant topics addressed in previous CFPB reports and bulletins, including monthly Consumer Complaint reports, Supervisory Highlights, and the February 2016 compliance bulletin regarding Regulation V. The report outlines, among other things, the CFPB’s (i) efforts to monitor the effectiveness of the SAFE Act; (ii) fair lending activities, including its risk-based fair lending prioritization process and recent public enforcement actions; and (iii) ongoing efforts to define larger participants in markets for consumer financial services and products which are subject to the Bureau’s supervisory authority. According to the report, the Bureau’s supervisory actions during the six month period covered in the report provided over $44 million in compensation to over 177,000 consumers, while enforcement actions in the same time period resulted in “approximately $200 million in total relief for consumers who fell victim to various violations of consumer financial protection laws, along with over $70 million in civil money penalties.”