In the news

MASSPIRG Education Fund
Boston Business Journal
Matthew L. Brown

Two of the region’s biggest banks are near the top of a list of the most complained-about banks in the country.

The list, compiled in a report by the MassPIRG Education Fund using data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s consumer complaint database, shows Sovereign Bank and RBS Citizens among the five banks to receive the most consumer complaints relative to deposits between when the CFPB started the database early last year and mid-July.

Boston-based Sovereign, with 9.1 complaints per $1 billion in deposits, was the second only to South Dakota-based TCF National Bank, which got 24.9 complaints per $1 billion in deposits.

Citizens, which is headquartered in Providence, R.I., got about six complaints per $1 billion in deposits, fourth most in the country, according to the report, entitled “Big Banks, Big Complaints.”

In sheer numbers, the biggest banks in the country dominate the list. Customers filed the most complaints, 3,453, about Wells Fargo, 3,135 about Bank of America and 2,032 about JPMorgan Chase.

The local players make that list, too. With 622 complaints, Citizens was the eighth most complained-about bank in the country, and Sovereign with 442 complaints was 12th.

Most of the time, consumers complain about their mortgages, their checking accounts or credit cards. The complaints tend to be about opening, closing or managing accounts, making deposits or withdrawals and being low on funds.

Customers in Massachusetts sent the CFPB 631 complaints, or about 3.3 complaints per $1 billion in deposits.

Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s consumer programs director, said bank customers were so used to their complaints “falling on deaf ears” that many stopped complaining altogether. The complaints received by the CFPB “are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Cummings isn’t laughing maniacally about sticking it to the big banks, though. She’s encouraged by the fact that 95 percent of the complaints received by the CFPB have been resolved, a quarter of them with some form of cash payment to the customer.

“It’s creating an incentive for banks to want to be nowhere on that list,” she said.

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