Banking in the Ninth

Consumer Complaint Process

Consumer Affairs Update - July 2018

Published July 31, 2018  | July 2018 issue

An important responsibility of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ (Reserve Bank) Consumer Affairs section is to investigate consumer complaints against the state member banks supervised by the Reserve Bank. Consumer Affairs staff members work with the complainants and the banks to determine what occurred and whether the Reserve Bank has authority to resolve the issue. Because the Reserve Bank occasionally receives questions about how this process works, this article summarizes the Reserve Bank’s role in handling consumer complaints.

How does the Reserve Bank receive consumer complaints?

Federal Reserve Consumer Help (FRCH)1 serves as the central intake function for consumer complaints for the Federal Reserve System. FRCH gathers initial information from complainants and distributes the complaint information to the federal agency with supervisory authority for the bank. FRCH forwards any complaints against Ninth District state member banks to the Reserve Bank for handling. The Reserve Bank may also receive consumer complaints directly from consumers or from other sources, such as other federal and state regulators or members of Congress.

FRCH gathers initial information from complainants and distributes the complaint information to the federal agency with supervisory authority for the bank.

What is the Reserve Bank’s process once it receives a consumer complaint?

The Reserve Bank is responsible for investigating each complaint and obtaining information about what occurred from both the consumer and the bank that is the subject of the complaint. The Reserve Bank contacts the bank and requests that the bank respond to all of the consumer’s concerns. This response should include any supporting documentation related to the issue, including information on any previous bank-related actions to resolve or address the issue. The Reserve Bank then reviews the bank’s information and follows up as necessary with further questions. For each consumer complaint it receives, the bank should evaluate whether the complaint indicates any compliance management-related areas for improvement, as discussed in a recent Banking in the Ninth article on consumer complaint management2. The Reserve Bank may also request additional information from the complainant to complete its investigation.

The nature of the investigation and the time needed to complete it vary depending on the seriousness and complexity of the matter involved. Investigations typically take up to 60 days to complete. It may take longer to investigate more complex complaints, such as those alleging illegal credit discrimination. The Reserve Bank notifies the complainant and the bank once the investigation has concluded. The Reserve Bank will inform the complainant and the bank if its investigation identifies an error or a violation of a federal consumer protection law or regulation for which the Reserve Bank has authority to address.

Although the Reserve Bank investigates every complaint that involves a bank it regulates, the Reserve Bank does not have the authority to resolve every complaint. For example, the Reserve Bank cannot resolve:

  • Contract disputes or undocumented factual disputes between a customer and a bank. In these cases, the consumer may need to seek other assistance to resolve the issue.
  • Matters that are the subject of a pending lawsuit.
  • Complaints about customer service or disagreements over specific bank policies and procedures that are not addressed by federal law or regulation.

More information about filing a complaint is available at www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov. State member banks with questions about the Reserve Bank’s complaint investigation process can call the Consumer Affairs assistance helpline at (612) 204-6500 or (800) 553-9656 ext. 6500.


Endnotes

1 Federal Reserve Consumer Help,  https://federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov/

2 “Establishing Effective Consumer Complaint Management Processes,” https://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications/banking-in-the-ninth/establishing-effective-consumer-complaint-management-processes

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