Bureau’s hotline could be lifeline for consumers

Got a beef with your mortgage lender? Is your bank unresponsive when you complain that your escrow account is fouled up and making your monthly payments needlessly high? More

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Bureau’s hotline could be lifeline for consumers

Posted 12/12/11

Got a beef with your mortgage lender? Is your bank unresponsive when you complain that your escrow account is fouled up and making your monthly payments needlessly high?

Did your loan officer bait-and-switch you into a more costly home loan than you were originally promised? Or worse yet: Did your home loan servicer ignore you when you told him you’ve had an unexpected drop in income and needed a modification to avoid missing payments?

If any of these situations sound familiar, here’s a heads-up about the newest and least-publicized source of federal help: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s home-mortgage-complaint-and- dispute-resolution hotline. Never heard of it? That’s not surprising since it only went live Dec. 1 and the CFPB hasn’t said much about it, preferring to ease into the potential snake pit of mortgage issues that American consumers have with their lenders rather than get overwhelmed.

The complaint hotline is accessible online at the www.consumerfinance.gov), by toll-free phone between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern (855-411-CFPB) as well as by regular mail and fax.

The bureau was created by last year’s Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation and is supposed to look out for your interests in banking, financial products, home loans and all other forms of consumer credit. Its mortgage-complaint service is an extension of the agency’s existing hotline for credit card-related disputes and inquiries, which began July 21.

So far, according to the bureau, the card hotline has handled 5,074 complaints. Of this total, it referred 84 percent directly to the credit card issuers – mainly big banks – for resolution. Some complaints came with incomplete information or were referred to other agencies for action. Approximately 74 percent of all the complaints were subsequently reported back from banks as resolved, and 71 percent of total resolutions were not disputed by the consumers who lodged the original complaints. Just under 13 percent of all credit card complainants reported that they were not satisfied with the card issuer’s actions.

The credit card complaint service is likely to provide a template for the agency’s approach to mortgage problems, which are expected to be more voluminous. When a borrower submits a formal complaint to the bureau, complete with account numbers and other key identifiers, the information will be sent immediately to the lender or mortgage servicer named in the complaint using a secure web portal.

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