Civil Rights and Discrimination Glossary

As with many other legal topics, the realm of civil rights may seem to have its own language at times. Continue reading

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Filing a Consumer Complaint About a Bank

If you have a complaint about a bank or other financial institution, the Federal Reserve System might be able to help you. The Federal Reserve is responsible for carrying out many of the federal laws that protect consumers in their dealings with financial institutions. The Board of Governors, located in Washington, D.C., works with the twelve Federal Reserve Banks around the country to make certain the commercial banks that the Federal Reserve supervises abide by these laws. The Federal Reserve can help individual consumers by:

  • Answering questions about banking practices, and
  • Investigating complaints about specific banks under the Reserve’s supervisory jurisdiction. Complaints about financial institutions that are not supervised by the Federal Reserve System are referred to the appropriate federal agency.

What Kinds of Complaints are Investigated?

As a federal regulatory agency, the Federal Reserve System investigates consumer complaints received against state chartered banks that are members of the System. If you think a bank has been unfair or deceptive in its dealings with you, or has violated a law or regulation, as a consumer you have the right to file a complaint.

The Federal Reserve is particularly concerned that state member banks comply with federal laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination in lending. In such cases, additional steps are taken to ensure that your complaint is promptly and thoroughly investigated. In addition, complaints alleging discrimination in housing that are covered by the Fair Housing Act are referred to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

How to File a Complaint

Before writing or calling the Federal Reserve, consumers are encouraged to try to settle the problem with the financial institution first. This may involve directly contacting senior bank management or the bank’s customer service representative for assistance. If you are still unable to resolve the problem, you may file a written complaint with the Federal Reserve including the following information:

  • Your name, address and daytime telephone number, including area code;
  • Name and address of the bank involved in your complaint or inquiry;
  • Your bank or credit card account number;
  • The name of the person you contacted at the bank, along with the date, if applicable;
  • Description of the complaint. State what happened, giving the dates involved and the names of those you dealt with at the bank. Include copies of any letters or other documents that may help the Federal Reserve to investigate your complaint. Please do not send original documents, copies are preferred; and remember to sign and date your letter.

It’s important to give the Federal Reserve as much information about the problem as possible; this will assist the Federal Reserve in providing a quicker response to you.

Where to Send Complaints

Send your complaint to:

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Division of Consumer and Community Affairs
20th and C Streets, N.W., Stop 801
Washington, DC 20551

For further information you may call (202) 452-3693.

What Will the Federal Reserve Do?

Consumer complaints filed against state member banks are investigated by the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks. Once received, your complaint will be reviewed by the consumer affairs staff who will contact the bank about your concern. The Reserve Bank will investigate each issue raised in your letter and ask the bank involved for information and records in response to your complaint. If additional information is needed, the Reserve Bank will contact you by telephone or in writing. The Reserve Bank will analyze the bank’s response to your complaint to ensure that your concerns have been addressed and will send a letter to you about their findings. If the investigation reveals that a federal law or regulation has been violated, the Reserve Bank will inform you of the violation and the corrective action the bank has been directed to take.

Ten Things to Think About: The Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution make up what is known as the Bill of Rights. These amendments form part of the essence of what makes United States citizenship the privilege that it is. Many people are familiar with freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press, but these important Constitutional amendments offer more than those rights, as the following summary demonstrates.

  1. Congress cannot make a law that favors the establishment of one particular religion; that prohibits the free exercise of religion; or that restricts freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people to gather and engage in peaceful demonstrations and to petition the government for redress of their grievances.
  2. Because a well-regulated militia is necessary to national security, the right of the people to keep and bear arms may not be infringed.
  3. No soldier may be quartered in any house during a time of peace without the owner’s consent, or in a time of war except as prescribed by law.
  4. People have the right to be free, in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, from unreasonable searches and seizures, and no warrants may issue without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and specifically describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
  5. No person may be tried for a capital or other “infamous crime” unless he or she has first been indicted by a grand jury, except in military cases. No person may be made to answer for the same offense twice (double jeopardy); be compelled to be a witness against himself or herself in a criminal case; or be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Nor may private property be taken for public use without fair compensation (eminent domain).
  6. Whenever someone is on trial for committing a crime, he or she has the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district where the crime was committed, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to confront the witnesses against him or her, to be able to compel the testimony of witnesses in his or her favor, and to the assistance of defense counsel.
  7. Whenever the amount at issue in a lawsuit is over twenty dollars, the parties have the right to a jury trial, and no jury verdict may be overturned except according to the strict rules of the justice system.
  8. There can be no excessive bail or fines, nor cruel and unusual punishment.
  9. This list of rights should not be read to limit in any way any other rights of the people.
  10. The powers not specifically granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited by the Constitution to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.