Industries Banking/Finance

Consumer group analyzes credit-card complaints

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Print this page By Paula C. Squires


Consumers are filing lots of complaints against credit-card companies.

Since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began collecting data on credit cards in 2011 — as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act — consumers have filed more than 25,000 complaints.

Nearly a fifth of them have been against McLean-based Capital One Financial Corp., a consumer advocacy group reports, making it the most complained about credit-card company in the country during a 22-month period, from Nov. 2011 through Sept. 10, 2013, according to the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund.

Capital One disputes that assertion based on the number of complaints in the CFPB’s database now, more than four months later. As of Jan. 16, a Virginia Business review of complaints shows that Citibank has drawn the most complaints, with a total of 5,749, compared with 5,518 complaints against Capital One.

Capital One company spokeswoman Pam Girardo said in an email that PIRG’s assertion is inaccurate “as anyone who looks at the CFPB database today can confirm. We remain committed to working with our customers to resolve any issues they may have. Our goal is to exceed customer expectations by delivering best-in-class service, and we sincerely regret when we disappoint a customer. “

The PIRG report sheds light on the nature of consumer complaints. Consumers were most likely to complain about billing disputes (16 percent of complaints); followed by difficulties with APR (annual percentage rate) or interest rates (10 percent); and trouble with identity theft, fraud and embezzlement (7 percent).
“The CFPB is empowering consumers to demand accountability from their credit card companies,” Laura Murray, consumer associate for U.S. PIRG Education Fund, said in a statement. “Finally, consumers ripped off by junky credit-card add-ons or unfair billing disputes have somewhere to turn.”

During the 22-month period that PIRG examined, the three credit card issuers drawing the most complaints were Capital One, then with 5,215 complaints, followed by Citibank with 4,514 and Bank of America with 3,320 complaints.

Other key findings from PIRG’s report:

·        GE Capital Retail generated the most complaints among the top 10 issuers based on ratio of complaints to card volume. GE experienced 88 complaints per billion dollars in purchase volume, followed by Capital One with 46 complaints and Barclays with 25 complaints per billion dollars in purchase volume.

·        Nearly 40 percent of credit-card complaints to the CFPB result in tangible relief to the consumer. More than 7,300 consumers have received monetary relief through the CFPB, and 2,300 additional consumers have received non-monetary relief such as adjusting interest rates or correcting information with a credit-reporting agency.

·        The median amount of monetary relief for credit card complaints was $128.
·        The District of Columbia had the most complaints per-capita, followed by Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia and Maine.

Besides the complaint database, the CFPB enforces provisions of the 2009 Credit Card Act that help consumers avoid penalty fees and unfair interest rate increases.

The report, "Credit Cards, Consumer Complaints: The CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database Gets Real Results for Credit Card Holders" [] is the fourth in a series of five PIRG reports that analyze complaints in the CFPB’s consumer complaints database.

The next report will focus on complaints about debt collection.

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