CFPB ombudsman: Young agency tinkers with consumer complaint process


The public needs more clarity about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's consumer complaint process, the bureau's ombudsman's office says in its first annual report.

From the opening of the ombudsman's office in December 2011 through the end of fiscal 2012, about 1,000 issues arose in 775 inquiries. Forty percent of the issues related to the consumer complaint process; only one other topic accounted for more than 10 percent of the issues.

The ombudsman's office says in its report (.pdf), released Nov. 30, that the complaints reflect the newness of the bureau as it learns how to explain its process to the public.

Those who contacted the ombudsman's office wanted to know more about what exactly happens at each step of the process, as well as the timing, the report says. Some asked why the bureau couldn't help in their cases or why some complaints were seen as duplicative.

Of the 775 inquiries, 80 percent came from consumers. Four percent were on behalf of businesses, and three percent were from financial services providers that the bureau has jurisdiction over.

The ombudsman's office says that as a result of the feedback, the bureau will soon add more information to its website about the steps of the consumer complaint process. It also now explains to consumers that it can't help under some circumstances, such as when there is litigation pending.

Consumers without Internet face problems of their own, the report says. They receive fewer updates on their complaints than those who can get updates online, for example.

Some of them have missed the opportunity to dispute a company's response to a complaint because the letter giving them that chance arrived with only a few days left to do so.

Those who could receive an email notification got 30 days to reply.

For those without Internet access, the bureau should send notifications in the mail more frequently and allow for a longer period to dispute company responses, the ombudsman says.

For more:
- download the CFPB Ombudsman's office fiscal 2012 report (.pdf)

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