There is a nuanced art to complaining and getting results from a company. A few years ago, you could call a customer service line, write a letter or shoot an email into the abyss with the faintest hope that someone might be inclined to help you resolve your issue. Those with a major issue might get a lawyer to assist in their struggles. Gone are the days of waiting on hold for an hour listening to awful muzak before a customer service rep tells you he can’t do anything for you. It can take as few as seconds now, thanks to social media, which provided a game-changer in the war of getting a major company to recognize they’ve mistreated you.
Going up against a major company
In February of 2013 a winter storm named for an orange fish in a children’s movie came ripping through the Northeast. Several feet of snow crippled transportation in and out of New York City, leaving would-be-travelers stranded. As a New York City dweller, I was stranded in the comfort of my own home, but it provided little solace when I realized the major airline I’d booked travel through did not intend on refunding my fare.
To set the stage: my attempt at frugal travel had me departing New York City by bus to reach my destination in upstate New York. I had booked a flight back for two days later.
Nemo’s winter chaos cancelled my bus trip (for which I was refunded) but the storm had cleared up by the time I would have returned two days later so my flight wouldn’t be cancelled affording me a refund.
I called the airline’s customer service line and explained the storm had prevented me from reaching my destination, so I wouldn’t be there to board the return flight. A semi-polite representative told me that was unfortunate, but I’d have to forfeit the cost of my ticket with no refund.
In a black-and-white scenario, I understood the airline’s position. The storm did not cancel the flight I had booked, so they shouldn’t have to refund me just because the storm prevented me from getting there. Plus, I didn’t use one of their planes to reach my destination.
After two attempts at resolving the issue through the airline’s customer service line, hoping a combination of my sob story and being a loyal flyer would illicit a kind gesture, I changed my tactic.
I decided to pull a typical millennial move and vented my frustration on Twitter.
Tagging the offending airline in the tweet, I used my 140 characters to sum up how Nemo had disrupted my travel plans and I wished the airline would reward my loyalty with understanding by offering me a refund or travel credit.
Within 10 minutes, a member of their social media team made contact with me and asked that I send my email address in a direct message on Twitter so they could attempt to resolve my issue.
Thirty minutes later I had a travel credit for the cost of the flight I would be unable to board. I tweeted my thanks to the airline and still fly with them today.
Why companies react to social media
Social media is by no means the only way to try and resolve your complaint, but it’s an incredibly effective tool. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and similar platforms all amplify your voice to reach thousands to potentially millions of people.
Dealing with a bank-related issue isn’t much different than travel related frustrations. You may feel utterly helpless or completely ignored when it comes to going through typical customer service channels to draw attention to your complaint or issue. This is why social media is such a valuable tool for the average consumer. Social media can provide companies with easy public relations wins or become an absolute nightmare within seconds.
Major companies from all sectors have experienced the embarrassment of trending on Twitter or losing hundreds to thousands of Facebook fans after an inappropriate or ill-timed post caused a backlash from consumers.
Fearing the amplified voice of social media, most banks have dedicated social media teams that work to field complaints (or compliments) sent to them via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
How to use social media to complain
If you plan to use social media to get your bank’s attention, be sure you’re going about the process the right way.
- Don’t just vent or threaten
Expressing your outrage might feel good, but it’s better to approach the situation diplomatically and mention being a loyal customer but that you’re disappointed with how you’ve been treated.
- Using the appropriate mentions and hashtags
If you don’t “at mention” or “tag” your financial institution in the tweet or Facebook post, then it will likely just get lost. You should also look to see if your bank has a specific handle for customer support. Chase for example has their team responding to customer complaints from the @ChaseSupport handle. If you have an issue that many other people are experiencing, look to see if a trending hashtag exists that you can use to amplify your voice.
- Don’t give away personal information in a public forum
Never divulge personal details like credit card or social security numbers on social media.
- Thank them for their help
If using social media resolves your issue, then be sure to publically thank your bank. For example: Thanks @Chase and @ChaseSupport for helping me resolve my billing cycle issue so quickly.
What happens if social media doesn’t resolve your problem?
If using the powers of social media doesn’t resolve the situation, then you still have another major player at your disposal.
The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau was established to help and protect you. You can reach out to the CFPB to be an advocate on your behalf and try to resolve the situation.
It doesn’t hurt to mention to your bank (via social media or on the phone) that you’ll be filing an official complaint with the CFPB. Banks may be big, and sometimes feel like bullies, but they aren’t fans of getting publically reprimanded. Find more information about how to utilize the CFPB here.
Most Complained About Banks – We crunched the numbers
- Bank of America remains America’s most complained about bank
- Ocwen has rapidly become America’s most complained about mortgage servicer. (Not surprising, given the mistakes they have made. If you are a customer, you could get money back from them. Find out more here.)
- Citibank Credit Cards have the highest complaint ratio (complaints as a % of total credit cards)
- Capital One received the most retail bank complaints per branch (with Bank of America a close second)
- Experian is the most complained about credit bureau
- Encore Capital Group is the most complained about debt collector
If you are having a problem with your bank, you can get help with your complaint from the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). Just file your complaint online, and they will help you get answers – and maybe even money. I told the story of my friend, who had his credit history fixed and money reimbursed, in this DailyFinance article. The CFPB has received over 400,000 complaints since it was launched, providing a real alternative for people to get help.
The CFPB makes its complaint database public. To date, over 250,000 complaints have been made public (and more are being added to the database every day). At MagnifyMoney, we believe that public access to complaint data is a great public service. It enables people like us to identify trends, rank banks based upon complaints, and help consumers make good financial decisions.
Today we are pleased to release our analysis of the complaint database.
Over 76,000 complaints were made public during the first six months of the year. Of the big four banks, Bank of America remains the most complained about bank. 5,261 people complained about BofA. Wells Fargo received 4,834 complaints. Chase received 3,988 complaints and Citibank received 3,025.
What does this mean for you?
We have crunched the complaint numbers, and have the following tips:
If Ocwen is your mortgage servicer (now the largest non-bank servicer in the country), you should pay close attention. They have a history of mistakes, which can be very costly. If you are having problems with Ocwen, don’t be shy. Complain to the CFPB, and tell Ocwen that you are going to complain to the CFPB. They are a bit touchy, given they have just been punished with a judgment of more than $2 billion due to their mistakes.
If you are receiving calls from a collection agency, you have rights. And if someone like Encore Capital Group keeps calling you – and you don’t know why – don’t be afraid to raise the issue to the CFPB (and tell Encore that you are doing so).
For choosing a retail bank, we have long argued that branch-free banking is the way to go. Traditional banks pay the lowest rates on savings accounts, charge the highest monthly and overdraft fees, and limit you to their ATM network. Look at our checking account and savings account pages to make your checking account free, earn the highest interest on your savings account, and ditch your traditional bank. Of the big banks, Chase has half as many complaints per branch at BofA. And PNC and US Bancorp always did well.
Credit bureaus can make mistakes. You should check your credit report every year, and make sure that mistakes aren’t there. You are allowed to get a free report every year from all three bureaus, and make sure you do. To get the issue fixed, you can go straight to the bureau. But, if they don’t move quickly enough, use the CFPB.
The biggest complaint categories for credit cards are billing disputes and ID fraud. Sign up for alerts with your credit card company (they can send you an email if a large purchase is made). You should also download your bank’s app so that you can keep an eye on spending. Any suspicious activity should be reported immediately – and you should keep a paper trail of your communication with your bank. The earlier you catch anything suspicious, the better.
At MagnifyMoney, we will continue to update the complaint database, and try to provide you with useful tips based upon the data.
Ocwen Loan Servicing Settlement: Apply Now Online
Ocwen Loan Servicing is the 4th largest mortgage servicing company in the country. That name will be familiar to millions of people across the country who make their mortgage payments to Ocwen every month.
As we reported here, Ocwen is now the most complained about mortgage company in the country. And we should not be surprised: negligence and incompetence at Ocwen has caused harm to countless families. It is so bad at Ocwen, that the CFPB has ordered Ocwen to:â€‹
- Forgive $2 billion of principal balance for its customers, and
- Pay $125 million to people who have already lost their homes
Where did Ocwen do wrong? In short – they built a machine that was very good at foreclosing homes, but not very good at working with customers to avoid foreclosure. Examples include:
- Not making people aware of ways to avoid foreclosure
- Not acting upon a loan modification application, and proceeding straight to foreclosure
- Turning people down for loan modifications in error
- Foreclosing on homes, even though people were making payments under the terms of a trial modification
Ocwen also has a history of overcharging delinquent customers and losing loan payments. The list goes on. It is no wonder that Ocwen has been told that it can no longer acquire new mortgage portfolios until it cleans up its own house.
The good news is that money is now available to help people who have suffered from Ocwen’s incompetence.
- If you are still in your home, you may be able to have the balance of your mortgage reduced (principal reduction). $2 billion is being forgiven.
- If you already lost your home to foreclosure (and shouldn’t have), then you could receive a cash payment. A fund of $125 million has been created to pay victims.
Making sure that the claims are paid out is the responsibility of the National Ocwen Settlement Administrator. You can call them at 1-866-783-5382 for general questions. But, the good news is that you can file a claim online. And, remember: if you do not file a claim, you will not receive a settlement.
You should have received (or will be receiving shortly) a letter from Ocwen letting you know that you are eligible to file a claim. On the form, you will see a Claimant ID number, which is required to file the claim. If you think you are eligible for a claim but have not received a letter, then call 1-866-783-5382.
If you have received the letter, then we think the best way to file is online. You can do that here.
If for some reason you are not satisfied with the way your claim is being handled, then you can complain to the CFPB directly on their website.
Finally, make sure you DO NOT pay anyone to help you with your claim. A lot of scam artists out there will tell you that they can get you more money or better deals. They can’t. Just submit your claim directly to the claims administration so that you can get the money that you are owed.
The Most Complained About Banks
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established by Congress in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act. The CFPB has a big job: protect any consumer who uses a financial product or service. How does the CFPB protect consumers? They write rules that banks must follow and they fine banks when they don’t follow the rules. Only a small part of the fine goes to the government: the biggest portion is actually refunded to the people who were victims. To date, the CFPB has put over $3 billion into the pockets of everyday Americans.
But the CFPB also does something that we find very exciting: they will handle your complaints. We think this is amazing for 3 reasons:
- Banks will be held accountable. Speaking to the manager is no longer the last line of defense. If you have suffered a serious grievance – you have a real alternative to the bank.
- The CFPB can see complaint trends. Why is that important? Complaints are usually a great way to figure out if there is a systematic problem. If, all of sudden, thousands of people start complaining about a small bank charging lots of hidden fees – then the CFPB can use those complaints as a clue to investigate the bank. When I used to run a credit card business, I would use complaint data internally to find out where we got things wrong.
- The CFPB shares the data publicly – including the names of the banks. We think this is the best part of the story. Airlines are constantly ranked based upon their on-time performance. Why can’t we do the same thing for complaints about banks? When I lived in the UK, the complaint data would be front-page news.
At MagnifyMoney, we love that the CFPB manages complaints and publishes the data. We want to help the CFPB advance their mission. We have put together a simple guide on How to Complain. Don’t be afraid to make the CFPB work for you!
Starting today, MagnifyMoney will be publishing a monthly report on the most complained about banks. Here are some of the most interesting findings for this month:
- Bank of America received more complaints than any other institution. A total of 35,847 complaints have been made
- 5 of the Top 10 Most Complained About Banks are not banks!
- 2 are mortgage companies: Nationstar and Ocwen
- 3 are credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion
- The most complained about product: mortgages
- During the first 3 months of 2014, Ocwen actually received more complaints than Bank of America. Ocwen is a mortgage-servicing company.
- Debt collection has rapidly risen and is now the second most complained about topic. The worst offender: a company called Encore Capital Group. Banks will sell your debt to companies like Encore Capital.
- Experian is the most complained about credit bureau – having received 8,630 complaints
- When adjusted for the number of branches, Capital One is the most complained about bank. They received more than one complaint for every branch that they operate.
- When adjusted for the number of credit cards outstanding, Citibank received more complaints than any other issuer
- The top 3 credit card complaints: Billing Disputes, Interest Rate and Identity Theft
- In absolute numbers, New York has sent more complaints to the CFPB than any other region
- When adjusted for the number of people, Miami had the highest per capital complaint ratio
CFPB Data on Most Complained about Banks: See more details