Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

June 18, 2013

CFPB Complaints Vary by State, Unsurprisingly

By David Reiss

The Baltimore Sun quoted me today in Marylanders Aren’t Shy About Complaining: New Federal Consumer Agency Finds State Residents Quick to Gripe About Mortgages, Credit Cards, Banks. The story opens,

Marylanders are big complainers.

At least when it comes to the financial services they receive.

Maryland ranked No. 2 in the nation in mortgage complaints per capita, second only to New Hampshire, for grievances lodged with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The state came in third for grousing about credit cards and placed fifth for gripes about banks and service.

The CFPB’s database, launched toward the end of 2011, catalogs thousands of gripes about banking, credit cards and mortgages that the newfound agency has received. The agency forwards complaints — ranging from disputes about billing and interest rates on credit cards to incorrect information on credit reports and problems with loan payments — to the businesses involved. Not all complaints are resolved.

Why are Marylanders more motivated to complain? Experts point to the state’s higher education levels, relative wealth and proximity to the do-gooders in Washington, D.C.

“Education level predicts complaint behavior, and this is a very well-educated area,” said Rebecca Ratner, a professor of marketing at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

The more educated consumers are the more likely they are to feel that they can affect outcomes and know what steps to take to complain, Ratner said.

Consumers here also are more aware of the new agency because of our proximity to Washington, the CFPB’s home, she said.

Indeed, Washingtonians also are big whiners, ranking No. 1 in complaints about bank accounts and credit cards and coming in third for mortgage grievances.

Consumers near the Beltway also may have more faith in the government to correct problems, given that they are likely to have friends and neighbors who work for Uncle Sam, said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School with an expertise in consumer finance.

“The federal government has a face when you live in Maryland and D.C.,” he said.

Maryland also has the highest median income in the country. Moneyed consumers, Reiss said, are more inclined to speak up when there’s a problem.

“Wealthier people are more likely to expect more from financial institutions,” he said.

They also know that financial institutions are regulated and can be held accountable, he said.

The rest of the story is here.

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