WASHINGTON — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its semiannual report on Monday, detailing the agency's accomplishments during the first half of 2012.
The report highlighted the agency's consumer complaint database, including providing some fresh details on the number and kind of complaints the CFPB has received.
"Consumers deserve to be treated fairly, and to have someone stand on their side when they are not," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a press release. "The CFPB has used the tools at our disposal for the benefit of consumers in the past year, and we pledge to continue to do so as we work to promote a transparent, fair, and competitive consumer financial marketplace."
So far, 43% of complaints received by the CFPB since it opened its doors on July 21 were about mortgages, while 34% were about credit cards. The third most frequent type of complaint had to with bank accounts and other services, at 15%, while student loan-related complaints represented only 4%.
The figures were based on roughly 55,300 complaints received prior to June 30 of this year.
Of the 23,800 mortgage complaints, the majority - or 54% - was focused on problems when a consumer was unable to make loan payments, while 25% concerned loan servicing.
"Consumers who have filed these complaints generally appear to be driven by a desire to seek agreement with their companies on foreclosure alternatives," the report said. "The complaints indicate that consumer confusion persists around the process and requirements for obtaining loan modifications and refinancing, especially regarding document submission timeframes, payment trial periods, allocation of payments, treatment of income in eligibility calculations, and credit bureau reporting during the evaluation period."
Of the 18,800 credit card complaints, 14% were focused on billing disputes, while 10% concerned a card's interest rate.
Of the 8,100 complaints received about bank accounts, 41% focused on account management, while 25% concerned deposits and withdrawals. Another 15% were about problems caused by low funds.
"Many consumers remain frustrated with overdraft fees and the wide discretion companies have to assess these and other fees so long as the fees are outlined in account agreements," the report said. "Similarly, some consumers express frustration with the order in which companies process account withdrawals because the processing of larger transactions before smaller ones can lead to more overdraft-fee charges."
Roughly 81% of all consumer complaints received by the CFPB were sent on to the company used by the customer for their review and response, the agency said, while the remainder were referred to other regulatory agencies, found to be incomplete or are still pending with the consumer or CFPB itself.
Of the complaints sent to firms, 26% were followed with monetary relief for the consumer, while 3% were closed without any monetary relief. The median amount of relief was $144, the CFPB said, although the amount varied by the type of financial product received. For example, the median amount of mortgage relief was $411, while the median level for student loan complaints was $1,597.
The most common response by companies, however, was to close the complaint simply by providing an explanation to the CFPB about what happened in a specific instance. Those types of scenarios occurred 55% of the time.
Customers are given the chance to dispute the firms' responses, but have done so in less than half of the cases where they had that opportunity.
In contrast to the data on consumer complaints, the report provided relatively little details on the agency's enforcement activities. It reiterated Cordray's oft-stated view that the agency will focus first on what causes the "greatest harm to consumers."
"The investigations currently underway span the full breadth of the bureau's enforcement jurisdiction," the report said. "Further detail about ongoing investigations will not generally be made public by the bureau until a public enforcement action is filed."