Throughout this website, and several others I contribute to, I suggest people file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). I am usually responding to reader comments when I do, so the reason for suggesting filing the complaint is contained in each comment exchange, but only briefly. I want to be sure readers have a strong grasp as to why I am suggesting your complaint be filed with the CFPB, and also provide some commentary that I generally wouldn’t unless contained in a post like this.
First off, the CFPB was born from the recession that many attribute to the lack of stronger financial regulation. The CFPB has regulatory and enforcement authority in several key economic areas that all of us interact with on a daily basis. You may be thinking “that is all well and good… it is nice to have someone looking over it all and watching out for us, but were we missing that before”? Yes and no.
Much of federal regulation and enforcement of consumer financial products was spread out, and in my opinion resulted in being more spread thin. Yes, regulation existed, but enforcement in key areas was so slow to grind out positive outcomes for consumers, it seemingly may as well have not existed. Take CFPB direct oversight of the three big credit reporting agencies as an example. These large credit bureaus affect the vast majority of adult Americans, yet no one had the authority and oversight the CFPB now has over larger participants in the credit reporting space. The CFPB is perfectly positioned to be able to curb how credit bureaus allow debt collectors to reage collection accounts on credit reports.
Something else about the CFPB, and part of what I really want to drive home to readers, is they do give a rip, and really want to hear from you about your interactions with businesses you engage regarding debt and credit.
Debt and credit complaints to the CFPB get results.
The CFPB is actively involved in helping you get results from the complaints you file. Read the entirety of the initial CFPB complaint process page to get a feel for how they will manage your complaint. You can see there are several CFPB touch points and involvement in helping you resolve your complaint. You will remain updated and aware throughout the life cycle of your complaint.
Filing your complaint with the CFPB all starts on this page: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/.
The types of complaints filed with the CFPB can include concerns about debt collection and credit reporting, and other key areas of our financial lives, such as:
- Student loans
- Bank accounts
- Car loans and leases
- Credit Cards and Prepaid Cards
- Pay Day and other types of consumer loans
Be thorough and provide complete information when submitting your complaint to the CFPB. You can upload documents if they would be helpful.
I often encourage putting an outline of your complaint together before you submit it to the CFPB. This will help you remember everything including dates, times of day for conversations you may have had, and an outline of what was said and by whom. That kind of detail will come in handy for the CFPB and the person investigating your complaint at the business you filed the complaint about.
Regulatory complaints can guide the future.
The CFPB is a future looking agency, and not about what just happened. In other words, your complaint may be about the recent past, but your complaints combined with others (to the CFPB and other state and federal agencies) can shape the world we live in later on.
I help people resolve debt and credit issues. My work puts me in a position to care about the big picture when it comes to debt collectors. And even though the CFPB is currently only directly supervising larger participants in the debt collection space, that supervision, and current rule making for debt collection being considered, means debt collection complaints have, and will continue to, guide the activity and focus of the CFPB.
But it is not just the CFPB that is in place to affect change through the complaint process. Businesses who are the targets of the complaints care about the issues too. No, I am not saying they care so much to have prevented the issues you had, or are having, in the first place (though they may). I am saying that it will be some of the better positioned people in the organization that will often be looking into the complaints they get from the CFPB. At a high level, that information is going to lead to changes in business practices that will trickle down to the people, processes and policies that you and I interact with.
You may never have a mortgage or student loan complaint. And you may never have to file one years from now after you have had a mortgage or three, and paid off student loans, as a result of the complaints that led to positive industry changes earlier.
I suspect that over time, the CFPB complaint process will provide us all with a tool that we can use to vote with our feet and wallet before we decide to engage with a business or service.
Businesses and services using the portal.
I also suspect the CFPB complaint portal will provide a tool for businesses interacting with other businesses. One example of how that may happen would be the relationship between credit card banks and debt collectors they use, or debt buyers they sell unpaid accounts to.
Debt collectors will likely always receive a high level of complaints in our current system. It is the nature of the business. The CFPB portal is already loaded with complaints against debt collectors. But any collection agency or debt buyer with a high level of unsatisfactorily resolved complaints; a high metric for certain types of complaints; or complaints going without response, could lead to a scenario where I can see banks using the data as what I will dub “the CFPB metric”. This metric could mean debt collectors and buyers losing contracts until the company shows improvement, or perhaps just ceasing doing business with anyone without a passing grade.
While I recommend doing everything you can to resolve complaints and concerns you have with businesses in the consumer finance space by dealing directly with companies and service providers, the CFPB complaint process continues to impress me. The speed and impact the system delivers to people I have heard back from is huge.
I should also point out that your filing a complaint is not just about you getting something resolved in isolation. Your complaint can potentially help someone else after they read about how that same company stepped up to do right by you. They can then file their complaint with the CFPB where the may not have before, or perhaps even contact the company directly with more confidence instead.
I see the CFPB complaint process ultimately leading to consumer markets that place a higher priority on fair dealings.
If you have questions or concerns about filing your complaint with the CFPB, or would like to share the outcome of any complaint you filed, you are welcome to post in the comments below.