On April 25, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) released its monthly complaint report. For the month of March 2017, the products and services generating the most consumer complaints were debt collection, credit reporting, and mortgages, collectively representing approximately 65% of all complaints received. This continues the trend from February 2017, when the same three products and services generated over 60% of complaints received. In total, complaints increased 9% in March 2017 compared to February 2017, and the greatest increase in complaints were associated with money transfer products and services, which increased 34% from the prior month. Conversely, student loan complaints declined by 20% and prepaid complaints declined by 8%.
In a year-to-year comparison covering the three-month periods January to March 2016 and January to March 2017, the total number of complaints increased by more than 19% for the first quarter of 2017. Specifically, student loan complaints increased by 325%, an increase the CFPB attributed, in part, to updating its student loan complaint form in February 2016 to accept complaints about Federal student loan servicing. The CFPB also indicated that the increase may reflect its initiation of an enforcement action against a large student loan servicer. For the same year-to-year comparison, bank account or service complaints increased by 25%, consumer loan complaints increased by 25%, credit reporting complaints increased by 23%, credit card complaints increased by 18%, and debt collection complaints increased by 9%. Prepaid, money transfer, mortgage, payday loan, and “other financial service” complaints decreased. Payday loan complaints declined by 29%, the greatest percentage decrease of any product category.
Despite the substantial year-to-year increase, student loan complaints actually showed the greatest monthly percentage decrease in March 2017, declining by 20% compared to February 2017. The most common issues identified by consumers in student loan complaints were “problems dealing with their lenders or servicers” (64%) and “being able to repay their loans” (33%). Complaints about non-federal student loans comprised 64% of the complaints, while federal student loan complaints made up the remaining 36% of complaints. The CFPB also identified the following issues from student loan complaints:
- Poor information from and sloppy practices by servicers;
- Difficulty enrolling and staying in an income-driven repayment plan; and
- Confusion about consumers’ progress toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs.