Banks Challenge CFPB Authority to Regulate Customer Service and Object to Unfair Characterization of Banks’ Commitment to Serve Customers

WASHINGTON, DC – The Consumer Bankers Association, American Bankers Association, and the Bank Policy Institute jointly responded today to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) request for information about customer service practices at large financial institutions. The letter challenges the legal basis for the CFPB’s inquiry and objects to the Bureau’s assertion that banks are providing subpar customer service by investing in digital services to meet the diverse needs of their customers.

In the letter, the groups state:

“Banks of all sizes take very seriously the important role they play in the financial lives of consumers, families, businesses, communities and the nation’s economy. Banks provide products and services that help consumers meet their financial needs, and they are continuously innovating to better serve customers in this highly competitive marketplace. The CFPB’s statements in the RFI unfairly characterize the quality of customer service provided by banks and appear to reflect the CFPB’s pre-determined conclusions that banks do not provide high-quality customer service.”

Despite data demonstrating that consumer sentiment and satisfaction remain high, the CFPB issued a broad public appeal on June 14, 2022 asking the public to submit comments on “what customer service obstacles consumers face in the banking market,” including with respect to obtaining information from banks. That includes what information is requested, how the information is requested, wait times and any challenges in obtaining that information via different channels, among other data points.

The joint comment letter:

  • Challenges the CFPB’s authority for regulating customer service. Regulating customer service or setting terms for how, when or where banks serve their customers would exceed the authority granted to the CFPB by Congress.
  • Objects to the CFPB’s suggestions that superior customer service can be provided only through live interactions with a bank representative. Banks of all sizes and business models offer a wide variety of customer service options in response to consumer demand, including 24/7 service availability, customer service by phone and online and other unique offerings to improve convenience. These same offerings also enable banks to reach customers located in rural communities, and communities without access to reliable transportation. According to a recent Boston Consulting Group survey, 61% of rural customers did not visit branches last year, while another 27% visited branches less than once a week. Telephone, digital and non-brick-and-mortar platforms help serve rural communities and vulnerable populations without access to reliable transportation.
  • Rejects the CFPB’s assertions that high-quality customer service is under threat from mergers. The U.S. financial services industry is one of the most competitive in the world, according to recent data. Banking is also far more competitive than other consumer-facing industries, such as department stores, airlines or telecommunications. The highly competitive market for financial products and services leads banks to continually improve their practices or risk losing customers; banks have a business imperative to provide exceptional customer service.

To access a copy of the letter, click HERE.