Help is available if you can’t resolve a financial dispute

By ,
Ask a Lender
June 29, 2017 | Updated September 22, 2017

Key points

What to do if you have a finance-related consumer complaint:

  • Contact the company’s customer-service department; they may be able to resolve the issue quickly and effectively.
  • If necessary, contact a customer-service supervisor or even a company’s top leadership.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and other federal regulators, provide complaint-resolution options.
  • The Better Business Bureau can help with many business-related complaints, including those with a mortgage provider.

Quality customer service is something most companies tout and take seriously. But if you’ve ever been — or currently are — in a dispute involving your finances, it can be both time-consuming and frustrating to find a solution.

Problems with a lender, credit card issuer or other financial-services company are often best handled by contacting their customer-service departments. If a company representative cannot solve the problem, ask for a supervisor. Explain the situation in detail and remain as calm as possible. Clearly state your desired solution.

If the business needs written or physical evidence to support your claim, gather the information and get it to them as quickly as possible. And if the problem remains unresolved, work your way to the top of the ladder by contacting the company president, CEO or board of directors, if necessary.

When all else fails and you cannot resolve a dispute directly, there are a number of third-party groups and regulators that offer support. The Better Business Bureau (BBB), for example, is one of the largest private-sector organizations connecting consumers and businesses, handling more than 870,000 complaints in 2015 alone.

If you have a complaint that originated within the past 12 months, the BBB will forward the complaint to a mortgage or other finance-related company within two days and expects a response within 14 days. The BBB usually closes cases within 30 days. You should include your name, physical address and e-mail address with your complaint so the BBB can notify you of the lender’s or servicer’s response. The BBB, however, does not pursue claims that are already being litigated or have been previously resolved by a court or arbitrator.

Regulator help

In addition to the BBB, there are a host of government agencies that offer complaint-investigation and dispute-resolution options for consumers who are dealing with perceived irregularities related to loans or other financial services and products. A sampling of those agencies and their services follows:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The CFPB, which writes and enforces rules for lending and financial institutions, is a good place to start if you have a complaint about financial products, services or companies. The CFPB has a multistep process for resolving disputes and will keep you informed about the status of your complaint through e-mail updates and an online account. CFPB staff will advise consumers about specific steps they can take to resolve a dispute and also will publish the complaint in an online database for the benefit of other consumers.

The CFPB also accepts complaints about credit-reporting agencies. If you have incorrect information on your credit report, are the subject of a credit investigation, cannot obtain information about your credit score or history, or believe your credit report has been used or shared improperly, the bureau will attempt to resolve the situation if your own efforts are unsuccessful.

Federal Reserve

The U.S. Federal Reserve offers consumer help for banking-specific issues related to lenders it oversees. The agency will help resolve complaints about unfair, misleading or discriminatory practices, as well as violations of specific consumer-protection laws. Investigations often take 30 to 60 days to complete, depending on the complexity of the complaint.

Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group

If you have federal student loans, the website of the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group lists the steps to take to satisfy disputes directly with your servicing company or a collection agency. If needed, the ombudsman will attempt to resolve issues with loan balances and payments; interest and collection charges; consolidation and service quality; as well as deferment, forbearance and cancellation requirements. If you have private student loans, however, you’ll want to contact the CFPB, given the ombudsman works only with federal-loan programs.

Housing and Urban Development

If you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or disability when trying to buy or rent a home, you can file a fair-housing complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

National Credit Union Association

The NCUA helps to mitigate issues with credit unions. You may submit a complaint online or through the mail. A credit union is expected to resolve your issue and confirm it in writing within 60 days. The NCUA will conduct its own investigation if the institution does not respond, reports being unable to resolve the complaint, or you dispute the credit union’s report of a resolution.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

If you do business with a nationwide lender — typically, the word “national” will be in the bank’s name — and have a dispute, the OCC will work with the lender to resolve the conflict. The OCC will send you an email within 48 hours, or a letter within five business days, confirming receipt of your complaint, followed by a letter summarizing its investigation.

State regulators

Each state has its own regulatory structure to oversee financial-service providers such as banks, mortgage companies and other mortgage originators. Some states regulate mortgage brokers through a separate agency that also oversees real estate agents and appraisers. Many of these state regulatory bodies have some sort of consumer-complaint process that can be accessed in cases where disputes arise.

Compare Debt Consolidation Loans