​NCUA Reaching Goals For Improving Consumer Complaint Process

A year after the National Credit Union Administration announced plans to improve its consumer complaints process, the agency is achieving its goals.

In June 2015, NCUA issued a Letter to Credit Unions, 15- CU-04, “Improving the Process for Consumer Complaints.” In that letter, the agency unveiled improvements to its complaint handling process to better assist consumers and credit unions with resolving consumer complaints.

NCUA has a two-phased approach for resolving consumer complaints involving federal consumer financial protection laws. This approach gives credit unions sufficient time to try to resolve the situation directly with the consumer before the Consumer Assistance Center determines whether an investigation is necessary. Phase 1 provides credit unions with 60 days to resolve, as appropriate, most consumer complaints. If the center is notified in writing within the 60-day time period that the matter has been resolved, it will close the case. When a complaint cannot be resolved in Phase 1, it moves to Phase 2 and may be investigated.

Last year, NCUA also launched a new secure web portal, located on the agency's MyCreditUnion.gov site, that facilitates communications with the Consumer Assistance Center. Eighty percent of consumers who contact the center directly go through this portal. Consumers can use it to securely submit inquiries and complaints, check on the status of their complaints and receive correspondence from the center.

Credit unions also can use the portal to receive correspondence from the Consumer Assistance Center about complaints concerning them, check the status of complaints concerning their institutions that were filed before Aug. 24, 2015, and send responses and complaint information.

Use of the portal is not required for credit unions to communicate with the Consumer Assistance Center; however, credit unions are strongly encouraged to use the portal to enhance their efforts to receive and respond to consumer complaints in a timely and efficient manner. The portal provides real-time and detailed information that can help a credit union take quick action to resolve consumer complaints and address its members' needs.

Aided by the portal, credit unions have successfully utilized the 60-day period to respond in writing to the consumer, with a copy to the Consumer Assistance Center, and indicate whether the credit union has been able to resolve the complaint. Since the portal became available last August, credit unions have resolved almost 75 percent of complaints forwarded to them within the Phase 1 period.

Should a complaint go to a Phase 2 investigation, it is important that the credit union provide a thorough and timely response to the Consumer Assistance Center that addresses matters identified by a consumer in the complaint and includes the necessary supporting documentation for its actions. This reduces the need for the center to seek additional information or clarification from the credit union and expedites the center's determination.

These enhanced processes and technology updates have allowed the Consumer Assistance Center to improve its reporting on federal consumer financial protection issues and trends. In the first quarter of 2016, consumers who contacted the center most frequently complained about credit reporting errors, billing disputes on credit cards and funds availability in both checking and savings accounts.

To assist credit unions with responding to consumer complaints about federal consumer financial protection matters, NCUA provides many types of compliance resources, including information about the Consumer Assistance Center complaint handling process, on the NCUA.gov Consumer Compliance Resources page. NCUA also provides federal consumer financial protection and financial literacy information for consumers on MyCreditUnion.gov. Credit unions can use these resources to help inform their members and consumers about various personal finance topics.

If you have questions about NCUA's consumer complaint handling process, you may email consumeraffairs@ncua.gov or call the Consumer Assistance Center at 800-755-1030, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern.