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Mortgages balance disclosures top complaints in Fla.
MIAMI (1/21/11)--The No. 1 and No. 2 complaints made to Florida regulators by the state's consumers about their financial institutions last year were about mortgages and account balance disclosures, according to an analysis released Monday. The analysis, by Miami economist and bank consultant Ken Thomas of K.H. Thomas Associates LLC, indicated mortgages accounted for 30% of the 1,379 complaints filed last year. Account balance disclosures received 21% of the complaints. Many complaints about account balance disclosures related to new fees that consumers hadn't expected. Both categories had greater concentration of complaints than the previous year, said Thomas' report (South Florida Sun-Sentinel and The Miami Herald Jan. 18). The number of complaints for 2010 was down from the 1,840 filed in 2009, but up from 992 complaints consumers filed in 2008. Thomas based his analysis on three years' data from the Florida Division of Financial Institutions (DFI), which regulates both credit unions and banks. He focused on financial institutions with a high number of complaints compared with their market share. Bank of America, which has 18.2% of the market share, had 227 complaints or 16.5% of the complaints filed last year. JPMorgan Chase Bank, which has only 2.6% of market share in Florida, was the target of 119.6 or 8.6% of the complaints. Complaints about B of A have risen in each of the past two years, while the total number of bank complaints fell 25% from the year before. In 2009, B of A was the subject of 12% of the complaints filed. As for Chase, Thomas noted that analysis does not include complaints made about Chase affiliates, such as credit card operations. The data analyzed was only for the bank. Merger growing pains and the conversion of data systems produced one unusual finding: A credit union made the Top 10 complaints list this year. The credit union acquired a failed credit union in 2009, a move that doubled its membership size. The complaints came during a conversion of the two credit unions' systems that affected more than half its members. Since then, the credit union said it is already down in complaints to what is considered normal levels (South Florida Sun Sentinel Jan. 19). Others in the top 10 included Sun Trust Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, Regions Bank, Wachovia Bank, Saxon Mortgage Services, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and "unspecified."


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