Filing a complaint with a third-party organization like the CFPB or FTC can help you and your student loan servicer come to an agreement on a wide range of disputes — from incorrect balances to issues with deferment. It also provides government agencies with data they can use to change laws and prevent these issues from happening again.
How can I file a complaint against my servicer?
If you can’t successfully resolve your issue directly with the student loan servicer, submit a complaint through four main avenues:
Your servicer’s ombudsman or customer service team
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
Federal Student Aid (FSA) Ombudsman Group
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
5 steps to take before filing a complaint
Each option has its own procedure, but taking the following steps can smooth the process.
Do you have a private or federal student loan? Some organizations handle complaints for private loans, while the FSA Ombudsman Group deals with federal loans only.
What is the general topic of the problem you’re having with your servicer? Issues tend to fall within a handful of general categories:
Incorrect account balance
Incorrectly processed payments
Changing your repayment plan
Applying for forbearance or deferment
Inaccurate details on your credit report
Applying for cancellation, discharge or forgiveness
Consolidating your loans
Unwarranted tax refund, wage garnishment or collection charges
Issues with customer service
Often you’re required to describe the issue and how it’s unfolded so far with your servicer — for example, how the dispute started and any attempts you’ve made to resolve it on your own.
It might help to write out exactly what’s happened and edit it down to a paragraph or two that provides details while remaining relatively objective. If you’re having trouble with this part, consider making a list of events or interactions so far to help you come up with the main points.
You’re often asked to describe your ideal resolution to the problem at hand. But keep your suggestion realistic — the easier it is for the company to carry out, the more likely you are to see the resolution after filing a complaint.
Include information that supports your complaint and account of events, including:
Your name and contact information
Your servicer’s name and contact information
The name of your school
Your Social Security number
Your student loan account information
Correspondence with your servicer, including email or letters
How to resolve the issue with your servicer
Eligible loans: Federal and private student loans
Many student loan servicers work with a third party to resolve disputes internally. This third party is often called the ombudsman or office of consumer advocate. While each servicer has its own process for filing a complaint, you can typically do so by submitting an official form. Many servicers include a PDF on their website outlining the procedure with contact information. Others might require you to email for details.
A third party is considered the first step in complaining about a servicer and finding resolution to your issue. Some agencies that handle complaints might require you to show that you’ve tried to resolve the problem with the company first.
What happens if I can’t find the ombudsman’s contact information?
Some servicers’ websites are more difficult to navigate than others. But you can start with three steps:
Log in to your account. A lot of servicers protect information behind a password, so you might be able to find contact information after logging in to your account.
Call customer service. If your servicer really doesn’t provide information online about an ombudsman or consumer advocate, call the general customer service number and ask where you can send a complaint.
Skip ahead and contact an outside agency. If your servicer’s customer service team gives you the runaround, consider filing a complaint with one of the three agencies below. Explain that you made an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the issue with your servicer.
How to file a complaint with the CFPB
Eligible loans: Federal and private student loans
Filing a complaint with the CFPB can result in this regulatory agency contacting your servicer directly. It also contributes to the CFPB’s complaint database, which it uses to shape policy and inform government actions against companies, including student loan servicers. While you can file complaints for both federal and private student loans, this option generally works best for private student loans.
File a complaint against your private student loan servicer by following these steps:
Click Submit a Complaint at top right, and then click Start a new complaint.
Review the steps you need to take to submit a complaint. Click Start your complaint.
Under What is this complaint about?, select Student loan.
Follow the directions to submit information about the type of loan you have, the school you attended and your dispute.
Upload relevant documents supporting your case.
Review the details of your complaint and submit it.
How to file a complaint with the FSA Ombudsman Group
Eligible loans: Federal student loans
Filing a complaint against your servicer through the FSA Ombudsman Group is a solid option for federal loan holders. This agency reviews your complaint and either works with the company to resolve the issue or refers you to another government agency.
Either log in with your FSA ID or follow the instructions to file a complaint without it.
Select Repaying My Aid and click Continue.
Click Dealing With My Servicer and click Continue.
Provide details about yourself and the issue you’re having with the servicer.
Upload supporting documents and click Continue.
Review your complaint and check the box certifying that the information is correct. Click Submit.
How to file a complaint with the FSA Ombudsman Group offline
If you’d rather not submit a complaint online, you have options for mail, phone and fax.
Send a written complaint with supporting documents to:
US Department of Education FSA Ombudsman Group PO Box 1843 Monticello, KY 42633
Gather all required information and call the FSA Ombudsman Group at 877-557-2575.
Fax a written complaint and any supporting documents to the FSA Ombudsman Group at 606-396-4821.
How to file a complaint with the FTC
Eligible loans: Loans that have gone into collection
If you’re dealing with a loan that’s handled by a debt collector, you can file a complaint against the company with the FTC. Otherwise, stick with the two options above.
The FTC won’t take action against the company, but it can offer recommendations for resolving your complaint. Your complaint is also added to a database shared with the CFPB, the Better Business Bureau and more than 20 state attorneys general offices, which can affect government policy.
It depends on where you file the complaint. If you complain to your servicer, the CFPB or the FSA Ombudsman Group, it reviews your complaint and contacts the servicer to get its side of the story. The agency then tries to come up with a resolution close to what you’ve requested in your complaint — within reason.
If you file a complaint with the FTC, it offers recommendations for resolving the issue, though it won’t take action against the servicer itself.
You can also switch your servicer by applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). You must make 120 repayments while on an income-driven repayment plan and work at an eligible job before you can apply.
Filing a complaint against your student loan servicer is a way to resolve issues when customer service is getting you nowhere. Be sure to reach out to your servicer’s ombudsman or consumer advocate before turning to the CPFB, FSA Ombudsman Group or FTC.
Yes, you can file a complaint against FedLoan by first contacting the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) Office of Consumer Advocacy, which works with FedLoan borrowers. If that doesn’t work, consider filing a complaint with the FSA Ombudsman Group, CFPB or FTC.
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
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