Going up against a big bank like Bank of America is a David and Goliath-like struggle. But the federal government is giving consumers recourse if they feel a large financial institution is putting the screws to them. Starting last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began publishing consumer gripes against banks and other financial institutions on an online database.
Think of it as the government's version of Yelp for financial institutions.
According to the CFPB -- each week it sends thousands of consumers' complaints about financial products and services to companies for a response. The CFPB then lists the complaints after the company responds or after they’ve had the complaint for 15 calendar days, whichever comes first. The consumer has the option to publicly share their complaint if they choose to. Financial industry special interest groups have complained that publishing the narratives is unfair because it's one-sided.
"Publishing lists of 'most-complained-about companies' is dangerous," Samuel Friedman, with Sirote & Permutt, a law firm specializing in financial industry issues, wrote. "Unverified, unsubstantiated and unproven complaint data should be taken with a grain of salt.”
The CFPB admits it doesn't verify all of the facts alleged in the complaints. According to the CFPB:
We take steps to confirm a commercial relationship. We may remove complaints if they don’t meet all of the publication criteria. Data is generally refreshed nightly. Company level information should be considered in context of company size and/or market share.
The CFPB was created after the 2008 financial crisis.
Take a look at the chart below for the most-complained about Arizona financial institutions from 2012-present.