Consumer complaint volume nearly doubled from 91,000 in 2012 to 163,700 in 2013, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Board's Consumer Response Annual Report.

The top three complaint categories last year, according to the CFPB:

    •    Mortgages: The number one most complained about consumer product was mortgages, accounting for 37% of overall complaints. For these approximately 60,000 complaints, consumers were most concerned with problems when they were unable to pay, such as issues relating to loan modifications, collections or foreclosures.

    •    Debt collection: Debt collection was the second most complained about category, accounting for 19% of overall complaints even though the CFPB did not begin accepting debt collection complaints until July 2013. For the approximately 31,000 debt collection complaints, consumers were most concerned with collectors attempting to collect debt not owed, communication tactics by the collectors and collectors taking or threatening illegal action.

    •    Credit reporting: The number three most complained about category was credit reporting, accounting for about 15% of overall complaints. For the approximately 24,000 complaints about credit reporting, nearly three out of four consumers were concerned with incorrect information on their credit report.

The CFPB expects companies to respond to complaints within 15 days and to outline the steps they have taken or plan to take. It expects companies to close all but the most complicated complaints within 60 days.

Companies have responded to more than 93% of the complaints sent to them for response, and consumers have disputed only 21% of those company responses.

The CFPB has seen monetary relief for consumers in about 7% of complaints. This includes median amounts of $460 for mortgage complaints, $126 for credit card complaints and $111 for bank accounts or services.

Sometimes, companies respond with non-monetary relief. Overall, an estimated 11% of complaints fall into this category although for credit reporting complaints that figure rises to one out of three. Consumers have received a range of non-monetary relief in response to their complaints, according to the CFPB report, including:

    •    Foreclosure alternatives: Consumers have received mortgage foreclosure alternatives that help them keep their home;

    •    Protection from debt collectors: After CFPB inquiries, debt collectors have stopped engaging in excessive collection communications with consumers;

    •    Restored lines of credit: Consumers have had their credit lines restored when they wanted, or removed when that was their desired outcome;

    •    Corrections to credit reports: Consumers have had their credit reports cleaned up either by having correct submissions given to credit bureaus or by having credit bureaus correct inaccurate information about their consumer accounts; and

    •    Customer service: Many consumer problems are related to unanswered inquiries or incorrect information. After CFPB involvement, many customers had their formerly unmet customer service issues finally resolved.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the CFPB, established the handling of consumer complaints as a key part of the CFPB’s work. The CFPB began operations in 2011 by accepting complaints about credit cards and expanded in 2012 to include complaints about mortgages, bank accounts and services, private student loans, auto loans and credit reporting. In 2013, it began taking complaints on money transfers, debt collection and payday loans.

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