A look at the CFPB complaints database

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Ten years after its inception, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Complaints Database is a powerful tool for individuals to lodge complaints about a financial product or service, ensure that their voice is heard, and, in some cases, to obtain redress. Its publicly available data makes it an important tool for stakeholders, including policy makers, regulators and financial companies looking to improve the design of their products.

This report examines complaints lodged with the CFPB by people self-identifying as elderly, focusing mainly on the period from January 1, 2018 to June 30, 2021. It concludes that elderly people submit complaints to the CFPB regarding a large range of financial products, with particularly frequent concerns about credit reports, mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts and debt collection. Additionally, the number of complaints in most product areas has increased over time.

As of 2018, the largest share of complaints from seniors have been about credit reports, with about a quarter of all complaints in this category, which includes a wide range of personal consumer reports that can be used for banking, employment, insurance or other business activities. as well as companies that offer credit repair services. Meanwhile, complaints about credit cards or prepaid cards have increased as a proportion of complaints from seniors in recent years, forming the second-highest category for 2020 (at 23%) and the third-highest category in the world. during the first six months of 2021 (19%). Debt collection complaints from older people have declined somewhat in recent years as a relative proportion of all complaints, from 17% in 2018 to 12% in 2020 and early 2021. Complaints about banking products such as checking or savings accounts varied 9%. at 13% between 2018 and early 2021, placing them in fifth place for the first three years and narrowly surpassing debt collection for fourth place in the first half of 2021. and securities loans, student loans and auto loans .

After filing a complaint with the CFPB, it is then sent to the financial company mentioned in this complaint. The company has the opportunity to verify this and then must investigate and provide an initial response within 15 days and a final response within 60 days. In about 15% to 22% of all complaints per year, the customer who files the complaint receives some form of relief from the company. Each year, 7-9% of complaints result in monetary relief, and an additional 7-14% of complaints result in non-monetary relief, which may include actions such as stopping collection calls and correcting information or account documents.

Between January 2012 and June 2021, a total of 9,742 complaints from seniors resulted in pecuniary relief and 13,199 in non-pecuniary relief. These figures reflect over 18% of known complaints lodged with the CFPB by seniors during this period.

CFPB and other stakeholders should publicize the complaints portal and its potential to community organizations, researchers and advocates. This would increase both the number of complaints received and their value. Given the limitations of collecting demographic data from the complaints portal, the CFPB should also explore ways to improve the reporting and analysis of complaints from the public based on age and other demographic factors in order to identify specific areas of concern for various communities. Otherwise, concerns frequently raised by the elderly or among people of a particular race or ethnicity, for example, could be ignored.

Suggested citation:

Valentini, Joe. Financial Pain Points for Older Consumers: A Look at the CFPB Complaints Database. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute, September 2021. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00147.001



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