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Most Common Consumer Complaint: Big Banks' Checking Accounts
LANSING, Mich. (10/8/13)--Credit unions have another round to add to the stockpile of reasons credit unions are a better value for consumers than banks are.  Banks--especially big ones--have generated the most consumer complaints since March 2012, says a recent Public Interest Research Group in Michigan Education Fund (PIRGIM) study.
 
The non-profit group based in Lansing, Mich., analyzed 19,000 consumer complaints made to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau's public Consumer Complaints Database. The report highlights banks that generated the most complaints through their various banking services in each state.  Checking account services bore the brunt of the complaints, said PIRGIM.
 
Some key findings:
  • The top 25 U.S. banks were targets of 90% of the complaints. Credit unions could make a case that this is a signal of consumers' frustration with their banks' policies, although the study concluded the numbers are so high because these banks have most of the customers.
  • Banks with the most complaints overall included the three largest banks in terms of dollars deposited: Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase. Wells Fargo chalked up 3,453 complaints, while BofA had 3,135, and JPMorgan Chase has 2,032 complaints. PNC Bank and U.S. Bancorp were targets of 880 and 776 complaints, respectively.
  • On a per-dollar basis--the banks with the most complaints per deposit-- TCF National Bank, Sovereign Bank and Capital One topped the list of complaints. TCF National had 24.9 complaints per billion dollars deposited, Sovereign had 9.1 complaints per billion  and Capital One had 6.5 complaints per billion.
  • On checking account issues, 78% of the problems related to opening, closing and managing the accounts.
  • One in four complaints (28%) resulted in monetary relief to a consume and an additional 5% resulted in nonmonetary relief such as adjusting account terms. About 95% of the complaints were closed through the process. That means that although banks responded to 95% of the complaints, roughly one in every five resolutions is still being disputed by the consumer.
"Thanks to the CFPB's complaints database, consumers who get misled or exploited by their banks can make their voices heard and get satisfaction," said Eric S. Mosher, program associate for the PIRGIM Education Fund. "Other consumers can view the public database and make smarter, more informed financial choices," he added, noting that  the database provides "a transparent roadmap for navigating the financial marketplace."
 
The report, "Big Banks, Big Complaints: CFPB's Consumer Complaints Database Gets Real Results for Consumers," is the first in a series that analyzes the database complaints. Upcoming reports will analyze complaints about private student loans, credit cards, credit reporting and debt collection.
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