Tips on Filing a Credit Card Complaint

Starting in July, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will start accepting complaints about deceptive and abusive financial products, from credit cards to payday loans. While you're waiting, here are three other ways to voice your displeasure.

Tips on Filing a Credit Card Complaint Photo (cc) by kaibara87

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When you have a problem with your credit card issuer, it’s hard to find someone who can help, or sometimes, even listen. It is frustrating at best, and unresolved issues can magnify your personal financial crisis.

On July 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will begin accepting complaints about deceptive or abusive financial products and services. This includes credit cards, check-cashing services, and “payday loans.” The bureau is already receiving complaints but is directing them to other government agencies.

The CFPB was created through the the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. The Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, was responsible for setting up the consumer bureau. Last September, Elizabeth Warren was named as assistant to the president and special advisor to the secretary of the Treasury on the CFPB.

How the CFPB handles complaints will be closely scrutinized. Every step the bureau takes is likely to be controversial and will probably be disputed by banks and politicians since it will be public information.

The Dodd-Frank regulations require the CFPB to create a way for banking customers to report their problems with financial products and services, and send them to the appropriate state or federal agency. It can accept complaints by phone, letter, email, or on its website. The bureau must also make sure the financial firms respond to consumers.

Banks are protesting what happens to the information after it is filed. They want to keep the complaints as quiet as possible to protect themselves from trivial or malicious complaints. Nonprofit groups want full disclosure so that anyone can read the complaints.

Until now, agencies could receive complaints but had little power or incentive to push for changes. The CFPB will have the power to set and enforce rules on credit cards as well as mortgages and other consumer loans. The CFPB can also impose fines of as much as $1 million a day on companies that break consumer protection laws.

There are other ways for consumers to file a complaint about their credit card:

  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Complaints are processed by the local BBB, usually the BBB where the company is located. Complaints are sent to the company within two business days and the company is asked to respond within 14 days. The consumer will be notified of the company’s response. In some cases, BBB mediation or arbitration may be arranged to bring a resolution. The BBB says complaints are usually closed within 30 calendar days.
  • Contact Your State Attorney General’s Office Each state has a state Attorney General’s Office. It is authorized to bring legal action only in the name of the state. It does not serve as an attorney for individual consumers. It does not give advice or conduct research on behalf of individuals or businesses. Always contact the Attorney General’s Office in writing so your file may be kept up to date.It is generally better to try to resolve the dispute with the company or individual before filing a complaint with your state’s Attorney General’s Office. This office can’t force a company to respond or make an adjustment. However, there are times when filing a complaint can bring resolution. Patterns of complaints involving the same company or a new issue often help the Attorney General’s Office to allocate law enforcement resources. The AG Office will also help refer to the government agencies that can best address the problem.
  • File a complaint with federal government regulators You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Credit Practices. However, the FTC does not resolve individual complaints. Complaints made to the FTC help the agency detect patterns of wrong-doing, and lead to investigations and prosecutions. The FTC enters complaints into a secure online database that is used by thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide. You can file a credit card complaint with the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a government agency responsible for regulating credit cards issued by national banks in the United States. The agency encourages consumers to first attempt to resolve the complaint with their financial institution. The bank must also be a National Bank in order for consumers to receive help from the OCC. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Reserve if your bank has been unfair or misleading, discriminated against you in lending, or violated a federal consumer protection law or regulation.


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