Expanding its collection of consumer complaints, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it will now accept complaints regarding prepaid cards – including gift cards, benefit cards, and general purpose reloadable cards – as well as nonbank products, such as debt settlement services, credit repair services, and pawn and title loans.
Since the Bureau began taking complaints about credit cards in July 2011, it has continued to add new categories, including mortgages, bank accounts and services, private student loans, auto and other consumer loans, credit reporting, debt collection, payday loans, and money transfers.
The new additions are “another important step to expand” the CFPB’s efforts, director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “By accepting consumer complaints about prepaid products and certain other services we will be giving people a greater voice in these markets and a place to turn to when they encounter problems.”
Under the rubric of prepaid cards, the Bureau will accept complaints about gift cards, general purpose reloadable cards (which will be the subject of a proposed rule from the CFPB in coming months), and benefit cards. Complaints can be submitted about problems managing, opening, or closing an account; overdraft issues and incorrect or unexpected fees; frauds, scams, or unauthorized transactions; advertising, disclosures, and marketing practices; and adding money and savings or rewards features.
For debt settlement and credit repair services, the CFPB said complaints about excessive or unexpected fees; advertising, disclosures, and marketing practices; customer service issues; and frauds or scams are all reportable.
Pawn and title loan companies may face complaints to the Bureau about unexpected charges or interest fees; loan application issues; problems with the lender correctly charging and credit payments; issues with the lender repossessing, selling, or damaging the consumer’s property or vehicle; and the inability to contact a lender.
When a complaint is made to the Bureau, it requests that companies respond within 15 days with a description of the steps they have taken, or plan to take. With the exception of the most complicated complaints, the CFPB said it expects companies to close complaints within 60 days.
To read the CFPB’s press release, click here.
Why it matters: The creation of additional categories of complaints comes on the heels of the CFPB’s proposal to include consumer narratives as part of the Consumer Complaint Database, accompanied by any response to the complaint supplied by the identified financial institution. Calling the move a “natural extension” of its complaint process, the Bureau said it will spur competition among businesses for consumer satisfaction, increase the use of the complaint database generally, and enhance the agency’s consumer response function. In addition to privacy concerns, industry has expressed displeasure with the disclosure of complaints that are totally unverified and that the risk of reputational damage is not mitigated simply by the ability to post a response.