NCUA Opens Complaint-Tracking Portal

The digital feature is part of the agency’s new resolution process for credit unions and their members.

The NCUA has put a finishing touch on its year-long initiative to streamline the complaint resolution process for credit unions and their members.

The agency s Consumer Assistance Center (CAC) now has its own tab on the NCUA’s revamped consumer-facing website at www.mycreditunion.gov. That tab provides access to a secured online portal that members can use to file complaints and that credit unions can use to track complaints and communicate with the agency.

The portal serves both consumers and credit unions, says Gail Laster, director of the NCUA’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP). As you can imagine with the new consumer protection laws and the like, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of complaints. We felt it was important for the NCUA to modernize our technology and procedures for handling that.

The CAC is responsible for handling consumer complaints involving federal credit unions of up to $10 billion in assets (the bright line for CFPB involvement) and some federally insured, state-chartered credit unions. In addition to dispute resolution, the CAC is responsible for providing information about federal consumer protection and share insurance issues.

The NCUA lays out the whole idea in its Letter to Credit Unions 15-CU-04 issued in June. Basically, there’s a prescribed two-step process for attempting resolution within 60 days directly with the consumer, and, failing that, reporting the result to the agency, which can launch its own investigation.

The new portal is secure and not open to the public.

And it’s strictly voluntary, says Morgan Rogers, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs within the agency’s OCP. It supplements the existing reporting system; it doesn’t replace the ability to communicate with the CAC through email, snail mail, and fax.

This modernizes the process for complaint resolution, Rogers says. The complaint portal aims to help credit unions comply with consumer financial protection regulations while at the same time strengthening the system by facilitating resolution of complaints that could erode reputation.

This is our way of ensuring we have a robust complaint management system for members and credit unions alike, Laster says.

Laster says complaints run the gamut, including misunderstandings about overdraft terms and account fees and questions about mortgages. She says remedies typically include explaining the law to credit unions, training, and follow up, but that the agency considers each situation on a case-by-case basis.

Rogers, meanwhile, says resolving disputes quickly and without outside intervention remains the ideal.

You always want to allow parties to resolve the matter on their own, the consumer affairs division director says.Credit unions pride themselves on being able to take care of their members, and we’re trying to support and encourage that. A lot of times, it’s just a matter of improving communications.

The NCUA refers complaints that aren’t within its purview to the appropriate state or federal regulator. Laster notes if a complaint ever does reach the level of an enforcement action within the NCUA, that process would not take place through the Consumer Assistance Center but from other agency regulators.

But that’s not a common occurrence.

If a consumer goes to the right person at the financial institution, and that person cares and handles it, more often than not it’s resolved right there, Laster says.

November 30, 2015

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