Do You Have a Complaint About a Bank?
Here's How to Get Started
What can you do if you think your bank has not treated you fairly? Here are steps that may help you solve a problem.
Give your financial institution the chance to make things right. Before taking your case to the government or taking your business elsewhere, ask someone at your branch or another customer service representative at the bank to help address your concerns. “Starting directly with your bank is usually the quickest way to get things done,” said Susan Boenau, Chief of the FDIC’s Consumer Affairs Section.
If you’re not satisfied with the first answer you receive, consider speaking with a manager.
Prepare the information the bank will need to take action. At a minimum, expect to give your name and identifying information, such as an account number or your address. If you write a letter, you also may want to include your phone number or e-mail address for future communications.
Give a detailed description of what occurred and explain why the situation is unsatisfactory. Have ready any backup documentation, such as a monthly statement from the bank or your loan agreement. Also think about what you’d like the bank to do to correct the problem.
If you need to share any documents with a bank employee, only provide copies, not your originals. Also, “If you communicate with the bank using e-mail, do not provide your Social Security number, personal identification numbers or any other confidential information,” warned Joni Creamean, Chief of the FDIC’s Consumer Response Center. “Instead, visit the bank’s Web site and file a complaint there.”
Document your efforts to address the problem. Keep a record of your calls (including the date) and correspondence with the bank. When you speak to someone on the phone, note the number you dialed, the person’s name and department, and any actions he or she agrees to take on your behalf.
If you’re happy with a proposed solution offered by a bank employee, ask for the details to be put it in writing and mailed to you. As an alternative, you can send the bank a letter or e-mail recounting who you spoke with, when, and what steps that person agreed to take on your behalf. Keep a copy of any letters or e-mails you send.
Take actions that will preserve your consumer rights. It’s especially important to remember that federal consumer protection laws limit how long you have to file a complaint about an error.
“For instance, consumers are protected against unauthorized credit card and debit card transactions, but you need to notify your bank promptly to get the full benefit of the law,” said Evelyn Manley, a Senior Consumer Affairs Specialist at the FDIC.
If you still believe there is a problem or that you’re being treated unfairly, consider contacting the institution’s government regulator. The FDIC and other federal regulators can only require banks to take action when issues involve the laws and regulations over which they have jurisdiction. The regulators don’t, for example, settle disputes over whether a bank is complying with the terms of a loan or deposit contract (a private matter governed by state law) or serve as attorneys for individuals.
“But federal banking regulators may still be able to provide some assistance, even if your complaint only raises matters related to state law,” added Manley. “Regulators may be able to get an answer from a bank that has not responded to a consumer complaint or seek corrective action by state or local authorities if the institution is in violation of a state law or regulation.”
To find out who regulates a financial institution so you can contact the government agency directly (remember that the FDIC is not the primary regulator for all of the institutions it insures), you can call the FDIC toll-free at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342). See Where to File a Complaint for a list of the regulators of banks, savings associations and credit unions.