Hotline Proposed For Banking Complaints

Consumers with banking complaints reflexively complain to the FDIC or their state Attorney General, even though five federal agencies regulate the banking industry. A bill introduced by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wants to connect aggrieved consumers to the right agency by establishing a hotline to handle all banking complaints.

Maloney, who introduced the legislation to create the hotline, noted that the federal agencies have Web sites and numbers for consumers to call with questions. But a single hotline will help rout calls to each agency “more expeditiously and encourage frustrated consumers to call and get answers to their questions,” she said.

Further, the hotline could raise the agencies’ profiles among consumers and help keep track of consumer complaints, she said. The bill would also create an informational Web site.

The Federal Reserve Board claims that they get along just fine with the other agencies and are actively working to serve consumers. As evidence of their consumer-friendly nature, they cite “the use of technology such as encrypted email and electronic scanning of complaints to speed up and improve the referral process.” The Office of the Currency Comptroller, one of the agencies the Fed claims to be working with, disagrees. The OCC’s Chief of Staff thinks the bill is a great idea that would eliminate “the frustration consumers experience when being referred to another agency.”

We love government hotlines. In New York, 311—the single point of contact for all city agencies—has already proven more useful than several outer-borough subway lines. When we’re angry, we don’t want to painstakingly research agency portfolios. We want to pick up the phone and grouse to someone who can solve our problem.

Maloney is shopping the bill around for co-sponsors and is looking for a Senator to introduce companion legislation. She hopes to bring the bill before the House early next year. In the meantime, consumers can directly contact the five federal agencies that regulate the banking industry:

Regulator roulette wheel [MarketWatch]
H.R. 4332 – Financial Consumer Hotline Act of 2007 [THOMAS]
Write Your Senator
Write Your Representative
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