Consumer Complaint Report

CFPB Consumer Complaints Explained

The Consumers Financial Protection Bureau has released its Monthly Consumer Complaints Report for November 2016. These monthly reports are a “high-level snapshot” of three-month trends in consumer complaints about financial products and services. The November report also puts spotlights on consumer complaints in Arizona and debt collection.

The CFPB handles complaints for multiple products and services under its authority, including credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts and services, private and federal student loans, consumer loans, credit reports, money transfers, debt collection, payday loans, prepaid cards, debt settlement and virtual currency.

CFPB has processed approximately 1,058,000 complaints as of December 1, 2015; 23,100 of those were heard in November 2016.


The Complaints Report uses a three-month rolling average and compares the current average to the same period in the year before where possible. More immediate trends are compared month-to-month.

A three-month rolling average is also used for complaints that were sent to the company for response, but this company-level complaint data is behind the other data by two months. This is consistent with the 60 days period that companies can take to respond to complaints.


Debt collection receives the most complaints nationally, making up 27 percent of the total complaints of all financial products and services. The complaints are directed at first-party (companies collecting their own debt) and third-party collections.

Consumers complain the most about attempts to collect on debts not owed (39 percent) and communication tactics (18 percent). Collections for credit card debt received 14 percent of the complaints, and 13 percent were about medical debt.

Prepaid card complaints decreased the most, compared to the same period — September to November — in the previous year.

Iowa, Georgia, and Alaska had the largest increase in complaints, compared to the same period in the previous year.

In Arizona, 29 percent of consumer complaints were about debt collection, higher than the national average. Complaints about mortgages were received from 25 percent of Arizona consumers, similar to the national average of 24 percent.

Consumers complained the most about Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion nationwide. Complaints increased the most — by 618 percent — for Barclays PLC over the same period (July to September 2015 to July to September 2016) the previous year. EOS Holdings registered the largest decrease in complaints (a drop of 40 percent) in the same period.

Key Takeaways

  • Debt collection receives the most consumer complaints of financial products and services in the market
  • Most of the debt collection complaints are about debts not owed
  • Many debt collection complaints are about accounts being forwarded to third-party collectors without notice
  • Many complaints are about multiple contacts for debt collection
  • Complaints about prepaid cards are declining
  • Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the companies that are most complained about

Outcome of Consumer Complaints

Consumer complaints about the marketplace are heard by CFPB’s Office of Consumer Response. The office brings the complaints to the companies and assists in resolving them.

The company is expected to resolve most issues in 15 days to respond to the consumer and CFPB. If more time is needed, the company must note progress within 15 days, and then has 60 days to provide a final response. The company’s response is forwarded to the consumer, who is given 60 days to provide feedback.

Complaint data is shared with federal and state agencies that oversee financial products and services. Complaints are also collected in a database and published to keep the public informed about the kind of complaints that are received and what companies are doing about them. The published database doesn’t contain personal information about the complaints.