One of the primary functions of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection ("Bureau") is collecting, investigating, and responding to consumer complaints. Created as a result of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act ("Dodd-Frank Act"), the Office of Consumer Response ("Consumer Response") hears directly from consumers about the challenges they face in the marketplace, answers their inquiries about consumer financial products and services, brings their concerns to the attention of companies, and assists in addressing their complaints.
This Complaint Snapshot provides a high-level overview of trends in consumer complaints during the last 24 months with a focus on mortgage complaint volume. To account for monthly fluctuations including seasonality, this Complaint Snapshot uses a three-month rolling average, comparing the current average to the same period in the prior year where appropriate. In some cases, this Complaint Snapshot compares the most recent month to the 24-month average to highlight more recent trends.
Visit consumerfinance.gov/complaint to learn about how we handle complaints. Visit our Consumer Complaint Database at consumerfinance.gov/complaintdatabase to search, sort, filter, and export complaints.
Between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2018, the Bureau received approximately 646,200 complaints, including approximately 28,100 complaints in October 2018. Table 1 shows the percentage change in complaint volume by product, comparing August 2017 - October 2017 with August 2018 - October 2018.
October 2017 (monthly average of 1,086 complaints) to August 2018 - October 2018 (monthly average of 818 complaints), representing a decline of approximately 25 percent. This year-over-year decline is likely because student loan complaint volume was elevated in 2017 following the Bureau's enforcement action against a student loan servicer.
The Bureau received approximately 71,000 mortgage complaints between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2018, representing 11 percent of total complaints.
During this time period, the Bureau sent approximately 60,500 (or 85 percent) of all mortgage complaints to companies for review and response. The remaining complaints were referred to other regulatory agencies, incomplete, or are pending with the Bureau or the consumer. The Bureau referred approximately 11 percent of the mortgage complaints it received to other regulators. Complaints may be referred to other regulators when the Bureau does not have primary complaint handling responsibility, such as complaints about depository institutions with less than $10 billion in assets.
Complaints received by the Bureau help its work to regulate consumer financial products or services under existing federal consumer financial laws, enforce those laws judiciously, and educate and empower consumers to make better-informed financial decisions.
Complaint data about mortgages can be better understood in the context of other data, such as the number of loans serviced or the volume of new originations. The Bureau publishes market information about financial products and services on its website. For example, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) requires many financial institutions to maintain, report, and publicly disclose information about mortgages. Visitors to the Bureau's website can explore HMDA data using the Bureau's online tools.
The Bureau's complaint form prompts consumers to identify the the type of mortgage loan about which they are submitting a complaint. Figure 1 shows the types of mortgages idenfied by consumers in complaints submitted to the Bureau since November 1, 2016. Consumers selected conventional home mortgage in 50 percent of complaints submitted during this time period.
Figure 2 shows the issue category selected by consumers in mortgage complaints received between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2018. The most common issues identified by consumers are trouble during payment process (42 percent) and struggling to pay mortgage (36 percent).
The Bureau also collects unstructured data from consumers and companies during the complaint process. The consumer's narrative description of what happened, consumer-provided documents, the company's response, and company-provided documents are examples of unstructured data. The Bureau uses a variety of approaches to analyze consumer complaints including, for example, cohort and text analytics to identify trends and possible consumer harm. The review and analysis of unstructured data from those complaints sent to companies for response offers deeper insights into consumers' complaints and helps the Bureau and mortgage companies understand problems consumers are experiencing with mortgage loans.
Consumers submit complaints about trouble during the payment process more than any other type of problem. See Figure 2. An analysis of these complaints identified consumer concerns were related to periodic statements, application of payment, escrow accounts, and payoff requests.
The Bureau also regularly receives complaints from consumers who report struggling to pay their mortgage. Consumers complained of difficulty receiving assistance on their loan following a financial hardship, illness, natural disaster, and other difficulties. Some consumers who report stated that they disagreed with or were confused by the servicer's denial of their request for a loan modification. Other consumers described challenges while attempting to obtain assistance. These consumers complained that their single point of contact had been unresponsive and about having to respond to multiple document requests. Some consumers described the communications they received from their servicer about loan assistance as confusing. These consumers reported being uncertain on the requirements to continue the assistance process.
Table 6 shows the percentage change in mortgage complaint volume by state. Some of the highlights include: