In a perfect world, satisfaction would be the ultimate description of every aspect of our lives. There would be no justification for complaining and griping; disputes would be non-existent when everything works as its intended and products are perfectly flawless. But that only happens in dreams; the real world is full of defective, faulty, unreliable merchandise and shoddy, mismanaged services…including credit card services. While credit cards have become a great resource over the years, but they have proven to be just as flawed.
The most successful companies realize that handling customer complaints is every bit as important as providing excellent services and products. Dissatisfied customers will be dealt with promptly and courteously offered an apology for the inconvenience along with some sort of resolution to their issue.
But all too often, a business or institution puts too little attention or resources into their service department and fails to affectively address consumer complaints. Customer service agents who deal directly with consumers may have little training, resulting in erratic outcomes. What begins as a simple request for resolution to a specific complaint may turn into an ongoing dispute.
A Top Consumer Complaint
One area of consumer finance that gets more than its fair share of complaints is credit cards. Based on a breakdown by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 70 percent of all complaints in 2012 were credit and mortgage related. According the survey, 11 percent of cardholders had issues last year with specific trouble spots associated with billing, collections, identity theft and credit reporting hassles, in addition to interest rates. The three most common credit card complaints involved billing disputes (14%), APR or interest rate (10%) and identity theft/fraud/embezzlement (7%).
Resolving Credit Card Issues
To have an error on your credit card statement or a complaint addressed, begin by contacting the institutions involved. This may include your bank, the merchant and the credit card company. Send an explanation of your concern giving as much detail as possible and send it via certified mail. Request that they remove or make the correction. Be sure to maintain records of all communications.
The credit card company is obligated to acknowledge receipt of your request within 30 days and launch an investigation within 90 days or two billing cycles. Banks and financial institutions have 15 days to respond to a complaint and 60 days to address the problem. They can either fix the error or tell you exactly why they won’t.
If your problem still hasn’t been given the attention it deserves or you are not satisfied with the response, gather all relevant documents and consider getting help from another source.
Additional Resources to Help
Consumers need to understand that the credit card provider is not the only resource that can be utilized when disputes arise with the provider. There are several white knight agencies available for consumers to seek assistance when battling credit card companies. One of the responsibilities of the following non-profit and government agencies is to help you with credit card issues. And even if the end result isn’t what you expected, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve done all you can and that your complaint is on record at a number of agencies.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a government agency that supervises banks, credit unions and other financial institutions while enforcing consumer laws that prohibit discrimination and other unfair treatment and deceptive practices.
This is the resource to use when you haven’t been able to resolve a dispute over billing, interest rates, closing an account or other concerns. The CFPB will investigate the complaint to determine if any consumer protection laws were violated and if enforcement action is needed. If you’d like to have a complaint added to the agency list, file online or by phone at 1.855.411.2372. Your complaint will be assigned a tracking number that you can log in to check the status of your complaint. They will forward your grievance to the credit card issuer. They may also take civil action, when appropriate.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is another government agency that is designed to help consumers in a variety of areas to help prevent unfair business practices.
While the FTC does not work to resolve consumer complaints, filing your complaints can help them to detect patterns of wrongdoing and lead to investigations and prosecutions. The FTC enters all complaints it receives into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that is used by thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide. It also works with the CFPB to regulate consumer financial products and services.
Your State’s Attorney General is the chief law enforcement official. Filing a complaint will help in their investigations and prosecutions of shady practices for the good of the citizens of the state. Contact your state’s attorney general on the National Association of Attorneys General website to determine if your complaint warrants attention.
For More Elaborate Fraudulent Schemes
If you have multiple accounts that have been compromised or suspect that more devious activity may be behind your observations, it may warrant a more thorough nation or statewide investigation. As federal law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the Secret Service are responsible for protecting the nation’s infrastructure. Part of that job is to investigate criminal activity, including elaborate identity theft and complex fraud cases. You might want to consider filing a report if your issue falls within either agency’s jurisdiction.
You may also want to report your concerns to the Better Business Bureau and your local consumer protection agencies. Consumer complaints are the foundational resources they use to learn of threats and potential problems within your community and will use that information to produce materials to educate consumers against threats.
Although it should go without saying, it bears repeating. You, the consumer, are the first line of defense against any threats to your credit card account. Use safe practices and protect your account from being compromised. Never let your card out of your sight, create passwords that would be difficult to guess and remember to review every credit card statement and reports for errors at least bi-annually to insure their integrity.
Noreen Ruth is a contributor to www.wowcreditcards.com and numerous financial-related blogs and websites. She specializes in credit and debt-related issues and enjoys educating consumers about the latest rules and regulations, as well as ways to build, improve and maintain good credit.