Filing a Complaint
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is one of the best resources available for average American consumers looking to take charge of their financial situation. The CFPB, as it is commonly called, provides consumers with information and counseling regarding financial matters as well as a means to formally submit complaints about a company they feel has acted unfairly. Luckily, it also has a website where consumers can take care of the majority of their concerns online. While their site is relatively easy to navigate (as government websites go), it may be helpful to have a brief overview of the different services they provide for consumers, and how to take advantage of them. First, and perhaps most importantly, is the process of filing a complaint against a company.
The CFPB pursues complaints in any of the five areas of jurisdiction: mortgages, credit cards, bank products and services, vehicle and consumer loans, and student loans. Examples include billing disputes, issues with refinancing, and other potentially unfair lending practices. To file a complaint, you can visit the website at
http://www.consumerfinance.gov/ and move your mouse to the green link to right side of the page: Submit a Complaint. When the drop-down menu appears, select the first option, also entitled Submit a Complaint. On the next page, you will select which of the five areas of jurisdiction your complaint falls into. Regardless of which you choose, the corresponding link will take you to a “What Happened?” page, where you can begin describing your complaint by answering that question. There may also be other questions to answer specific to your area of jurisdiction. At this point, you must simply follow the steps provided to finish filing your complaint. Along the way you will answer questions regarding your own information and how you would like to see the problem fixed. After submitting your complaint, it will be screened for compliance by CFPB and then submitted to the company, who will have 15 days to respond and move the process forward. You can check the status of your complaint at any time.
Seeking Help About a Mortgage
In recent years, the majority of complaints received by the CFPB have involved home mortgages. Between July 2011 and June 2012, the number of mortgage complaints totaled nearly 20,000. Most consumers express confusion over the terms of the loan agreement, specifically when it comes to important issues like refinancing, modification, and foreclosure. In an effort to help consumers clarify these issues and avoid the need to file a complaint, the CFPB provides a system to connect consumers with mortgage counselors approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Counselors can not only help consumers to understand their mortgage agreements and their options moving forward, but can also work directly with the mortgage company to pursue these options and avoid foreclosure. The steps for finding a counselor are listed on the CFPB Website and can be viewed by viewing the drop-down menu for Get Assistance and selecting “Trouble Paying your Mortgage?”
The first step in seeking mortgage assistance is to collect and organize several important pieces of most importantly your mortgage loan number and ANY other paperwork from your lender along with a recent pay stub, your most recent tax return, and a list of your household expenses (utilities, car payments, etc). Once you have this information organized, you can call the CFPB at 1-855-411-CFPB (2372). The CFPB’s website can also be used to search for low-cost attorneys in your area, and provides valuable information regarding the many mortgage refinancing and foreclosure avoidance scams. If faced with questions or issues regarding your mortgage, the CFPB should be one of the first resources you consult.
Ask a Question or Tell a Story
Two valuable features of the CFPB Website are its mechanisms allowing consumers to directly ask questions of the Bureau, or to simply tell a story (positive or negative) about their experiences with credit cards, mortgages, student loans, etc. The first of these features, asking a question, appears on the website’s homepage, as part of the large blue bar featured at the top of the first page. Within this blue bar, you can click on the links Ask CFPB or Get your question answered to be taken to the Ask CFPB page. On this page, you can first search for an existing answer to your question by typing it in the space provided- after all, you are likely not the only one with similar confusion regarding financial products. If you cannot find the answer to your question, you can then scroll to the bottom of the page and follow the Add A New Question link highlighted in green, allowing you to submit a question of your own.
In the case of telling a story, the process is equally as simple. From the Website homepage, you move your mouse to the heading Participate to bring up its drop-down menu. From this menu, you can then simply click the link for Tell your Story.This will take you to a page where you can tell your story and fill in your personal information. If you wish to remain anonymous, this is an option as well. Important to note, however, is that the “Tell a Story,” page is completely seperated from “File a Complaint.” If you would like to file a complaint about a company, you should follow the instructions also provided here. Again, remember that stories can be either positive or negative; the CFPB’s goal in encouraging them is only to improve in its mission to “protect consumers and create a fairer marketplace.”