This was thanks to a Freedom of Information Request filed by Muckrock News.
A first glance at the data left us scratching our heads. According to the CFPB response, there were a total of 5,177 complaints filed from 2011 to the end of 2015. Of those, the top ten companies complained about were:
Western Union Company – 1,003 complaints
MoneyGram – 784 complaints
PayPal – 435 complaints
Bank of America – 193 complaints
Wells Fargo – 167 complaints
JP Morgan Chase – 155 complaints
Citibank – 71 complaints
Ria – 42 complaints
Walmart – 39 complaints
PNC Bank – 11 complaints
Those are obviously not digital currency firms. So we took a look at the CFPB’s online complaint form and discovered that the agency has not yet developed a form specific to virtual currency complaints and therefore lumps in virtual currency complaints with complaints about traditional money transmission (see screenshot below). When the CFPB responded to the FOIA request asking for virtual currency complaints, the overwhelming majority of complaints they returned were therefore not related to “virtual currency”.
So, we went through the data, cleaned it up, and then marked all those firms that we could recognize as clearly related to digital currency. What we found is that there was only a grand total of 37 complaints against “virtual currency” companies over the five-year period.
Coinbase took pole position with 10 complaints, which makes sense given the large number of customers they have. “Bitcoin” itself had two complaints lodge against it. GAW Miners had four complaints, Bitcoin Trader three, and Butterfly Labs two. After those, the rest only had one complaint each, and they are as follows: Bitfinex, BitInstant, Bittrex, Blockchain, C-Cex.com, CampBx.com, CoinMX, igot, Local Bitcoins, minerslab, Moonasics, MtGox, PERBTC, Purse, and Terabox. Many of these will be recognizable as known scams, and we have previously explained why there are so many Bitcoin scams.
In August 2014 the CFPB announced that “consumers who encounter a problem with a virtual currency product or service can now submit a complaint with the Bureau.” No doubt the agency wanted to see how widely consumers were being affected by the risks it had previously identified with digital currency. It’s remarkable, then, that in five years of data there have been so few complaints, and that so many of the products and services in the space are completely absent. Let’s keep it up.