The nation’s bankers also challenge PIRG’s study.
“No serious analyst would use this data to draw conclusions,” said Nessa Feddis, senior vice president at the American Bankers Association. “This is data that is unverified, unrepresentative, incomplete and potentially inaccurate.”
Feddis went on to point out that the number of complaints is “minuscule” when you consider the number of bank accounts in the country and the billions of transactions that take place every day.
“Banks are doing a good job and responding to their customers,” she said.
More than just bank complaints
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accepts complaints about a wide variety of financial service providers and products: mortgages, credit cards, student loans, auto loans, money transfer services, credit reports and debt collection. The agency recently handled its 200,000th complaint.
In some cases, the dispute resolution involves money. Other times it means correcting a problem, such as an error in a credit report that someone had been dealing with for years. In many cases, simply getting a clear response from the company resolves the issue.
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“Every complaint we receive is important because it helps us identify and prioritize problems,” said Scott Pluta, assistant director of consumer response at the CFPB. “We know that if we begin to see a disturbing trend among the complaints we handle, we should consider allocating some of our limited resources to combat that particular problem.”
The database may not be popular with the financial services industry, but it’s “making a real difference in people’s lives and in the marketplace,” Pluta said.
How to file a complaint
You can submit complaints online or on the phone, by calling 855-411-2372 (toll-free) 8 a.m.-8 p.m. EDT Monday through Friday. (Español: 855-411-2372; TTY/TDD: 855-729-2372)
Complaints may also be submitted by toll-free fax (855-237-2392) or U.S. mail to:
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
P.O. Box 4503
Iowa City, Iowa 52244
—By CNBC contributor Herb Weisbaum. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @TheConsumerman or visit The ConsumerMan website.