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Filing a Consumer Complaint About a Bank

Table of Contents

Can I Sue a Bank?

In many cases, consumers agree to arbitration clauses in the fine print of contracts with financial institutions. These clauses limit consumers' ability to sue. Instead, consumers are usually required to attend arbitration to settle disputes with financial institutions. A consumer protection attorney can look at the facts of your case to determine if it's possible for you to sue your bank, or if it's worth entering arbitration to attempt to resolve the dispute.

With that said, it may be possible to sue banks in small-claims court or through class-action lawsuits. Small claims court involves suing for an amount of money that is often limited to $5,000 or less, depending on state law.

If there are many individuals with the same grievances, banks and other financial institutions can be sued through class-action lawsuits.

Beyond filing a lawsuit, you have the option of filing a complaint with a government agency about your concern with the bank, which can still result in you getting financial relief.

Where to File a Consumer Complaint About a Bank

Option 1: Federal Reserve Consumer Help

If you have a complaint about a bank such as Wells Fargo, US Bank, or another financial institution, the Federal Reserve System might be able to help you. The Federal Reserve is responsible for carrying out many of the federal laws that protect consumers in their dealings with financial institutions.

The Board of Governors, located in Washington, D.C., works with the twelve Federal Reserve Banks around the country to make certain the commercial banks that the Federal Reserve supervises abide by these laws. The Federal Reserve can help individual consumers by:

  • Answering questions about banking practices
  • Investigating complaints about specific banks under the Reserve's supervisory jurisdiction

Complaints about financial institutions that are not supervised by the Federal Reserve System are referred to the appropriate federal agency.

What Kinds of Complaints are Investigated by the Federal Reserve?

As a federal regulatory agency, the Federal Reserve System investigates consumer complaints received against state-chartered banks that are members of the System. If you think a bank has been unfair or deceptive in its dealings with you, or has violated a law or regulation, you have the right to file a complaint.

The Federal Reserve is particularly concerned that state member banks comply with federal laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination in lending. In such cases, additional steps are taken to ensure that your complaint is promptly and thoroughly investigated. In addition, complaints alleging discrimination in housing that are covered by the Fair Housing Act are referred to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

How to File a Complaint With the Federal Reserve

Before writing or calling the Federal Reserve, consumers are encouraged to try to settle the problem with the financial institution first. This may involve directly contacting senior bank management or the bank's customer service representative for assistance.

If you are still unable to resolve the problem, you may file a written complaint with the Federal Reserve. Include the following information in the complaint:

  • Your name, address, and daytime telephone number, including area code;
  • Name and address of the bank involved in your complaint or inquiry;
  • Your bank or credit card account number;
  • The name of the person you contacted at the bank, along with the date, if applicable;
  • A description of the complaint. State what happened, giving the dates involved and the names of those you dealt with at the bank. Include copies of any letters or other documents that may help the Federal Reserve to investigate your complaint. The Federal Reserve asks that you do not send original documents, copies are preferred. Remember to sign and date your letter.

It's important to give the Federal Reserve as much information about the problem as possible; this will assist the Federal Reserve in providing a quicker response to you.

Option 2: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

If you have an issue with a credit card company, consumer loan, student loan, mortgage, or other financial services, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB is a government agency in the United States that makes sure banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat consumers fairly by offering consumer protection tools and resources.

Complaints can be filed online with the CFPB's free Consumer Complaint Database or over the phone by calling 855-411-2372. Here is the process:

  1. You submit a complaint to the CFPB.
  2. The CFPB reviews your complaint and determines if it should be forwarded to another government agency or should be sent to the company you are complaining about.
  3. The company responds and reports back the action they are taking.
  4. With your consent, the CFPB publishes information about the complaint on the public Consumer Complaint Database.
  5. You are notified when the company responds and are able to review the response and provide your feedback.

The CFPB serves as a helpful intermediary between you and the bank you have had trouble with. It can be easier to get a response and a resolution with the CFPB's involvement.

Option 3: Your State Attorney General's Office

Each U.S. state and territory has an attorney general who serves as the top legal officer. Most attorneys general take complaints from state residents on a wide range of consumer issues, including grievances against banks and other financial services.

Your AG's office may decide to pursue an investigation into the bank, or it may just make a public or private record of your complaint. Call your AG's office or visit the AG's website to find out more information.

How to Get Legal Help With Filing Consumer Complaints Against a Bank

Has your bank violated a law or regulation? If you have suffered from unfair lending practices or had deceptive dealings with a financial institution, then assert your right as a consumer and file a complaint.

While you can file a consumer complaint against a bank by following the above directions, you should seek help from an attorney experienced in discrimination issues or consumer protection if you have additional questions or concerns.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified civil rights attorney to help you protect your rights.

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