An analysis from consumer group PennPirg indicates the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has helped thousands of bank customers settle disputes over their accounts - with an estimated one out of four complaints resulting in monetary relief.
Overall, the bureau fielded approximately 19,000 complaints about bank accounts and services since March 2012. Of those complaints, roughly 5,000 resulted in banks making payments to settle the dispute, according to PennPirg, which is based in Philadelphia. While the database does not include specific amounts, the bureau previously reported the median payout as $110.
PennPirg's report, which analyzed the bureau's online complaint database, revealed which financial institutions drew the most complaints and what people were griping about.
The details of the analysis include:
1. An estimated 1,000 consumers had their complaints closed with some form of non-monetary compensation, such as a bank contacting a credit bureau to request a change in a credit report;
2. In approximately 20% of cases, consumers disputed the settlements, PennPirg said. Nearly half of complaints that involved a customer's funds being low (such as overdraft and bounced check fees) were resolved with monetary relief, compared with 28% of all complaints;
3. Checking accounts were the most common trigger for a complaint, accounting for 78% of the total. Among other categories, 7% involved savings accounts, 6% involved certificates of deposit, 1% were about cashing a check without an account and the remaining 8% involved "other" financial services or products;
4. Twenty-five U.S. banks accounted for more than 90% of complaints, led by Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.
PennPirg praised the CFPB's efforts but also offered suggestions for improvement, such as making the consumer complaint database more user friendly by adding more narrative information and details on how complaints were resolved, the reasons for and outcome of any disputes and specific monetary relief amounts.
PennPirg also suggested the bureau develop free smartphone apps for consumers to access information about how to complain about a company and how to review complaints in the database.