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FDIC Consumer News - Summer 1999
|Don't Get Mad, Get Answers
Got a complaint involving your financial institution but you're not sure about the best or quickest ways to resolve the matter? We asked FDIC consumer-assistance staff for suggestions.
s First contact the institution. Experience has shown that the quickest way to resolve most banking problems is to work directly with your bank or savings association. Ask who you should direct your complaint or question to and if the institution has any procedures it wants you to follow.
s If your bank or savings association is local, you may want to consider making an appointment with a manager or officer there. "A face-to-face meeting to share information and discuss differences often will clear up misunderstandings, on both sides, and reduce the frustration that can result from exchanging letters," says Mike Turpenoff of the FDIC's Office of the Ombudsman in Washington.
s If you report a problem to an institution in a phone call, follow up with a letter that restates your concerns and asks that the situation be looked into. "This part is very important, because written notification is often required by the consumer protection laws," says Kate Spears of the FDIC's Division of Compliance and Consumer Affairs in Washington. See examples of these laws that currently protect consumers.
Spears also says that if your call results in a verbal commitment, such as an agreement to refund a certain dollar amount, include in your follow-up letter a request for a written confirmation of what was promised over the telephone.
s Keep your tone as positive and professional as possible. If you're upset, allow yourself to calm down before calling or putting pen to paper. You'll be much more effective in getting the institution to see your side of the problem, and you'll probably remember more details.
s If you still feel there is a problem or that you're being treated unfairly, write to the institution's primary federal regulator. Remember that the FDIC does not regulate all of the institutions it insures. To find out who regulates an institution, you can call the institution, look the information up on the FDIC's Web site (www.fdic.gov) or contact the FDIC's toll-free Consumer Call Center at (800) 934-3342. After you know which agency is the primary regulator, you can use the phone numbers and addresses of this newsletter to contact the appropriate agency.
s You don't need to know the law in order to file a complaint with a government agency. "If there is a violation, we will let you know what your rights are under the law," says Spears. "And if we find no violation, we will tell you why, and what other options may be available to you."
s If you write to a government agency, include all pertinent information, such as your name, address and telephone number; the name and location of the institution; a brief description of the problem and your efforts to fix it (including the names of employees you contacted); and what you'd like the institution to do to correct the problem. Also attach copies of any supporting documents, such as account statements and letters to or from the institution.
s Be sure to sign your complaint letter to the government agency. "This signature allows the regulator to contact the institution on your behalf, and lets the institution know you want information released to the regulator," Spears explains.
s Remember that the FDIC and other financial regulators can only become involved in issues that involve the laws and regulations where they have jurisdiction. Many disputes between financial institutions and their customers involve matters of state law or the Uniform Commercial Code and must be settled by other government agencies or a court.
Also, read the notices mailed with your account statement, because they may include changes in your account's terms or conditions you should know about.
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