CFPB Launches Initiative to Improve Customer Service at Big Banks

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Effort Will Assist Consumers to Assert Their Legal Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced it is seeking public input on how bank customers can assert their rights to better customer service with big banks. A 2010 federal law specifies that consumers have rights to obtain timely responses to requests for information about their accounts from large depository institutions. In the Request for Information, the CFPB seeks data about, and consumer experiences with, the obstacles that may prevent people from receiving high standards of customer service and high-quality human interactions with their banks or credit unions. CFPB Director Rohit Chopra announced the Request for Information at a public town hall last week in Great Falls, MT.

“Customers of large banks should not have to run through an obstacle course to get a straight answer about their account,” said Director Chopra. “We are taking steps to ensure the legally enshrined right to obtain basic customer service.”

In the 2010 Consumer Financial Protection Act, Congress made a determination that consumers needed additional rights to demand information from large depository institutions. Section 1034(c) of the Act gives consumers the right to get information, including supporting written documentation, about their account from a large bank or credit union with over $10 billion in assets. Financial institutions covered by this provision must comply with customer requests for information in a timely manner. To date, the CFPB has not enforced or issued additional policy guidance under this legal provision.

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Many large financial institutions are increasingly shifting toward algorithmic banking and away from relationship banking. The initiative is part of a broader effort to restore relationship banking in an era of consolidation and digitization. The decline of relationship banking has deprived some consumers of customized advice, responsiveness, and care. Customers report a struggle to obtain basic information and poor customer service, including that it takes too long to get problems solved, that they have to repeat information to multiple people, and that employees aren’t knowledgeable about their situation.

The Request for Information asks what information would be helpful for consumers to be able to obtain from their banks. Specifically, the CFPB is interested in hearing information about the following:

  • What information do people request from their bank and how are they using that information? What information are consumers currently unable to obtain from their bank?
  • Does how a person contact their bank make a difference in their ability to get information? For example, is there a difference if they visit in person or call or go online?
  • Are there customer service obstacles that inhibit their ability to bank?
  • Is there value in banks disclosing who they share account information with, or compensation they may receive for sharing that information?
  • What do bank customers experience in terms of wait times, disconnected calls, the ability to speak to a person at a specific location, or the quality of responses to questions?
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A sharper focus on more relationship-based banking could play a critical role in helping to foster fair, transparent, and competitive marketplaces. Public input will inform future policy guidance and other initiatives regarding the rights outlined in Section 1034(c).

Read the Request for Information Regarding Relationship Banking and Customer Service. The deadline for submitting comments is 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Read Director Chopra’s remarks here.

Consumers having an issue with a consumer financial product or service can submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).

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