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Mortgages Still Top Consumer Woe

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Despite the fact that housing news in 2012 and 2013 has been pretty glowing — home prices are rising and credit is beginning to open up again — American’s top money complaint is still mortgages.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its annual consumer complaint database snapshot Thursday, describing the financial woes that consumers have been reporting to the young government agency. In total, the CFPB received about 91,000 complaints in 2012, and half of those complaints were mortgage-related.

In a distant second, credit card complaints made up 20% of the total received by the CFPB, followed by bank accounts and services (17%) and a three-way tie between student loans, consumer loans and credit reporting (4% each).

“By sharing these complaints with the public, we are creating greater transparency in consumer financial products and services,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray at a field hearing in Des Moines, Iowa. “The database is good for consumers and it is also good for honest businesses. We believe the marketplace of ideas can do great things with this data.”

The most popular complaint received by the CFPB (and by quite a large margin) came from consumers experiencing problems associated with being unable to pay their mortgage. This type of complaint made up 57% of all mortgage complaints.

It isn’t surprising that being unable to pay caused the most trouble for Americans — included in this category are loan modification issues, foreclosure troubles and collections.

The top credit card complaint voiced to the CFPB was regarding billing disputes. “Some consumers are confused and frustrated by the process and by their limited ability to challenge inaccuracies on their monthly credit card billing statements,” the agency’s annual report stated.

Hundreds of financial institutions are referenced in the complaint database, which could be an important tool for consumers looking to find a lender with a good background in dealing with consumer complaints. The database lists how the complaint was handled by the lender and whether it was resolved.

There has been controversy over the complaints database in the past, with some of the major lenders claiming that it unfairly makes smaller banks look complaint-free since the CFPB regulates financial institutions with more than $10 billion in assets.

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