Fight the Powers That Be:Your Guide to Filing Complaints With the CFPB

Good news, consumers! Credit reporting companies must now answer to The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency that helps consumers file financial grievances and fight the powers that be. In a nutshell, from here on out the CFPB will monitor credit reporting companies to make sure that they’re following the law. But what exactly is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and why is this news important?

“Credit reporting companies exert great influence over the lives of consumers,” said CFPB director Richard Cordray. “They help determine eligibility for loans, housing, and sometimes jobs. Consumers need an avenue of recourse when they feel they have been wronged.” The CFPB aims to protect consumers from being taken advantage of by financial companies. It handles grievances about the following:

  • Credit cards
  • Credit reports
  • Mortgages
  • Bank accounts
  • Consumer loans
  • Student loans

The CFPB sounds pretty great, and indeed it is. But the idea of using an agency like this to help when you’ve been financially wronged can seem daunting. Government agencies bring to mind webs of bureaucratic red tape, piles of paperwork to fill out and pages full of legalese that’s barely understandable to the average person. The CFPB, however, actually isn’t all that bad. You can file a complaint by telephone, fax, or snail mail. But the easiest option, by far, is to fill out one of the user-friendly forms on their website. To make this process more simple for you, we’ve compiled a handy little list of tips:

  1. Be patient. We hate being patient too, but sometimes that’s just how it has to be. Instead of going straight to the CFBP, make sure you exhaust your other options first. File a complaint directly with the financial institution that you feel has wronged you. Then, if you’re still not satisfied with the response (or if it takes longer than 30 days), go to the CFPB.
  2. Give them the details. Be as detailed as possible when describing your complaint. Go back and reread what you’ve written to make sure you haven’t left anything out. The more details you include, the stronger your case will be.
  3. Stay calm. You’ve been screwed over, and you’re understandably pissed. We totally get that. However, for clarity’s sake, when filing your complaint it’s best to stay calm. Rant away to your spouse, your cat, or the guy sitting next to you on the bus. Take a deep breath. Then you’ll be ready to write an articulate complaint and drive a stake into the hearts of those fat-cat bankers who stole your hard-earned cash.
  4. Stay on top of it. The CFPB does for complaints what the post office does for packages – they give you a tracking number. If your complaint is taking a while, by all means check up on it. You’ll feel a lot less stressed.

It’s a good feeling to know that there’s actually something we can do when a financial institution has wronged us. So keep these tips in mind and, as the great poet Flavor Flav once said, “fight the powers that be.” If you’ve filed a complaint with the CFPB, let us know about your experience in the comment section.