Consumer Financial Protection Bureau empowers credit card consumers

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Almost 40 percent of people who complained to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about problems with their credit cards received some type of compensation from their card issuer to settle the dispute, with nearly 30 percent receiving monetary relief, according to a report released Tuesday by U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The financial protection bureau -- a federal consumer watchdog agency launched in 2011 in the wake of the financial crisis -- "is empowering consumers to demand accountability from their credit card companies," said Laura Murray, consumer associate at the nonprofit U.S. PIRG education fund based in Washington, D.C.

"Finally, consumers ripped off by junky credit card add-ons or unfair billing disputes have somewhere to turn."

The median payout was $128, the group said after analyzing the protection bureau's online complaint database dating back to July 2011.

Nonmonetary concessions included such things as adjusting interest rates or revising information with a credit reporting agency, U.S. PIRG said.

In total, the financial protection bureau logged roughly 25,000 consumer complaints about credit cards, with some 10,000 resolved through monetary or other relief.

The most common complaints involved billing disputes, with 16 percent; followed by interest rates, 10 percent; and identity theft, fraud or embezzlement, 7 percent.

Overall, consumers disputed about 20 percent of responses from credit card companies, U.S. PIRG said.

Ten card issuers accounted for about 93 percent of complaints, led by Capital One with 5,265. It was the most complained about card company in 43 states, including Pennsylvania. Citibank was the second most complained about card company, followed by Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.

Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank ranked No. 13 in terms of complaints, with 150.

When adjusting for purchase volume, GE Capital Retail generated the most complaints, with 88 complaints per billion dollars in purchase volume. Capital One was second with 46 per billion dollars followed by Barclays with 25.

Among the top 10 card issuers, GE Capital Retail had the highest percentage of complaints settled via monetary relief at 40 percent. American Express had the lowest percentage of payouts at 20 percent.

For U.S. PIRG's report on credit card complaints, visit www.uspirgedfund.org. The financial protection bureau's complaint database is available at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaintdatabase/. Complaints can be filed at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint or by phone toll free at 1-855-411-2372.

Patricia Sabatini: psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066.


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