Citibank pushes back on Consumer Reports analysis over credit card complaints

Citibank is pushing back on a new Consumer Reports analysis about credit card complaints against the bank, with the nonprofit organization accusing it of “egregious” practices during the pandemic.

Consumer Reports on Wednesday published an analysis of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) about credit cards and concluded that Citibank account for nearly 37 percent of the 456 complaints between March 16 and May 20.

The bank received four times as many complaints as the next-closest banks, Synchrony Bank and Capital One, which received 40 and 38 complaints, respectively, according to the analysis.

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The complaints ranged from "failure to waive late fees, surprise account closures, and inability to get help from the bank’s customer representatives," Consumer Reports stated.

Syed Ejaz, a policy analyst for Consumer Reports, said in a statement that the bank's "practices are particularly egregious during a time of severe hardship when so many families have been pushed beyond the brink financially."

Citibank spokeswoman Jennifer Bombardier responded to the report, calling it “grossly misrepresented” and "misleading" and saying it contained “factual inaccuracies."

"We take all customer complaints seriously and strongly believe that Consumer Reports grossly misrepresented the manner in which we have supported our customers during this time by failing to include relevant information provided prior to publication," the statement read.

"The complaints referenced in the CFPB database include calls related to merchant disputes, as well as calls received very early in the crisis just prior to credit card assistance being available, and in total, the 168 complaints represent a very small fraction — .008% of the 1.9 million customers assisted,” the bank said.

Consumer Reports also sent a letter to Citibank laying out suggested improvements, such as having more online information about COVID-19 relief programs, making attestation of hardship as the only requirement to get relief and automatically waiving late fees during the crisis and 180 days after. 

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The bank said the letter "calls for recommendations to improve practices which are already in effect.”

Citibank also said cards in good standing before the waiver period will not be reported to credit bureaus “during this time."

Ejaz acknowledged the number of CFPB complaints may make up a small amount of consumer complaints but said it’s important to note that customers “resort” to reaching out to the bureau “when they’ve exhausted their efforts working directly with companies.”