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Credit card consumer complaints are down, say FTC, BBB

by Peter Andrew
Credit card consumer complaints are down, say FTC, BBB

It’s official. Fewer consumers are filing complaints against credit card companies. Recently, both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) published analyses of their 2011 data, and each showed significantly fewer grumbles about plastic compared to the year before.

Credit card companies do better, says FTC

The FTC says that it received 37,932 complaints about credit cards last year. That sounds like a lot, but is actually only 2.09 percent of the 1,813,080 total across all categories. In 2010, 2.33 percent of all complaints concerned plastic, while in 2009 it was 3.26 percent. In that year, the number of card-related filings was 46,291, 22 percent more than last year.

In fact, credit cards came 14th on the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network’s list of complaint categories, which was headed by identity theft; debt collection; and prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries.

BBB concurs

Credit card geeks might wonder if part of the fall in plastic-related complaints recorded by the FTC might have a simple explanation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) last year started accepting these, and, in its latest semi-annual report to Congress, said that it had received more than 7,500 by the end of 2011.

There may be something in the idea that consumers with a card beef are choosing to abandon the FTC, which promises only to record complaints, in favor of the CFPB, which offers to follow them up. However, the BBB’s latest figures, published Mar. 1, suggest that there really has been a fall.

The BBB’s raw data is fiendishly complicated, and includes five different types of possibly relevant complaint:

  1. Credit card — merchant services
  2. Credit card — processing services
  3. Credit cards — protection services
  4. Credit cards and plans
  5. Credit cards and plans — equipment & supplies

Luckily, Reuters crunched the numbers, and, on Mar. 2, revealed that credit-card complaints dropped 28 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Credit card regulation has helped?

Reuters went on to quote Council of Better Business Bureaus CEO Cary Hurt. He tied the fall to recent legislation, including the Credit CARD Act of 2009. He said: “Through some of this new regulation, there has been more focus on disclosures of what consumers are getting and with that clarity on the front end you are going to see a decline in the complaints.”

Of course, many credit card companies would also claim that they are investing time and money in building customer satisfaction. This is reasonably credible, not least because their actual goal would be to increase customer loyalty. If your customers like you, they’re less likely to defect to your competitors, and every marketer knows that, generally speaking, it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than to attract a new one.

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