CFPB Launches RFI to Improve Customer Service at Big Banks

In conjunction with a town hall held in Great Falls, Mont., yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced it is seeking input from the public regarding how consumers can “assert their rights” to better the customer service provided by big banks, an area of enforcement that the Bureau has largely left unchecked until now.

The CFPB went to Montana and made this announcement not on a whim. Montana was chosen as the locale to highlight the growing number of banking deserts that exist across the United States, particularly in rural areas. During his prepared remarks, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra noted that the number of banking institutions in the United States has declined to less than 5,000 from a high of 18,000 in 1984.

This new banking model has strained levels of customer service and made it harder for consumers to get answers to basic questions about their accounts, Chopra noted. “We should all be able to ask basic questions about our bank accounts and get clear answers,” he said. “It’s reasonable to expect shorter wait times and informed customer service personnel who can solve problems without bouncing a customer from department to department.”

In launching its Request for Information, the CFPB said it is looking to understand what information consumers want from their banks and what are the obstacles to obtaining that information in a timely manner. The CFPB is also soliciting customer service stories from consumers about their experiences with their banks and credit unions. “A sharper focus on more relationship-based banking could play a critical role in helping to foster fair, transparent, and competitive marketplaces,” the CFPB said in its announcement. Among the questions the CFPB is seeking answers to are:

  • What information do people request from their bank and how are they using that information? What information are consumers currently unable to obtain from their bank?
  • Does how a person contact their bank make a difference in their ability to get information? For example, is there a difference if they visit in person or call or go online?
  • Are there customer service obstacles that inhibit their ability to bank?
  • Is there value in banks disclosing who they share account information with, or compensation they may receive for sharing that information?
  • What do bank customers experience in terms of wait times, disconnected calls, the ability to speak to a person at a specific location, or the quality of responses to questions?

It’s possible that some of these questions can apply to collection calls, as well.

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