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The benefits of credit card complaints

Big Data Download

Government data on credit card issuers could help consumers and even companies themselves improve the experience of being a cardholder, according to one federal agency.

About 38,000 credit card complaints have been gathered by the government-run Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and are now online as searchable data sets, according to the agency. Complaint data can be sorted by specific company, type of complaint, whether a company responded in a timely manner and how problems are resolved, the CFPB explained.

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"The public database where we share these complaints is a competitive opportunity for companies, so they can see where they stack up against their competitors," said Scott Pluta, assistant director of consumer response at the CFPB. "So if you are a credit card company, and you want to market yourself as someone who provides very good customer service, you can simply ... download the data. You can sort it, and you can find out where you sit according to your peers," he said.

About three-quarters of the complaints the CFPB receives are from consumers who have already tried to resolve their problem with their credit card company and aren't satisfied with the response or haven't heard back from the creditor, the agency said.

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About 16 percent of credit card complaints involve a billing dispute or other problem, and about 9 percent of complaints involve interest rates, according to the CFPB.

Consumers who decide to change credit card companies or get a new credit card also can use the complaint database, the agency said.

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"When they're thinking about who they want to do business with, they can see how credit card companies have treated other consumers on a variety of metrics and they can make a decision," Pluta said.

The CPFB itself also tracks complaint trends and goes to credit card companies with its data to urge them to resolve repeat problems, the agency told "Big Data Download."

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