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Consumer agency logs 5,000 credit card complaints in first months

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau receives 5,000 complaints about credit cards in its first three months of operation. Many were resolved, issuers report.

December 01, 2011|By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Washington — — In its first three months of operation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau got more than 5,000 complaints about credit cards, the federal agency said in a report.

"When consumers contact us, we get a snapshot of how the consumer finance markets are working," said Raj Date, the special Treasury Department advisor who is running the bureau until the Senate confirms a director.

The agency, which launched on July 21, has made handling complaints a priority. The report covered complaints received through Oct. 21.

"Many complaints show consumers struggling to understand the terms of credit cards and associated products like debt protection services," the report said. "These complaints show a mismatch between consumer expectations and the way the product functions."

Billing disputes were the most common problem, with 13.4% of the complaints, followed by disputes about interest rates, at 11%, and complaints about identity theft and other fraud issues, with 10.8%.

Banks and other credit card issuers said that 74% of the complaints had been resolved. But 13% of consumers involved in those cases disputed the way the credit card companies resolved their complaints.

The American Bankers Assn. said that resolving customer complaints was the priority of financial institutions, and the data showed the industry is doing a good job.

"There are more than 383 million credit card accounts in the U.S., and less than one-tenth of 1% of those have submitted a complaint to the bureau," said Kenneth Clayton, the trade group's chief counsel.

From July 21 to Oct. 21, the agency received 5,074 credit card complaints. It sent most of them — about 84% — to the card issuer to try to resolve them. The rest were either incomplete or the consumer requested the complaint not be sent to the issuer.

The agency said it plans to expand its complaint system to cover mortgages and home equity loans by the end of the year.

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

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