By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN
New York (CNN) — If you do business with a bank or other financial service provider, chances are you may have dealt with “chatbots” at some point when you have a question about your account or are trying to remedy a problem.
Those bots, cheaper than humans and sometimes incorporating artificial intelligence technology, have increasingly become the front line for customer help on the phone and in online interactions at financial service providers. If your dealings with any of them have left you frustrated or feeling misled, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would very much like to hear about it.
The CFPB, which has regulatory authority over financial products and services such as credit cards, bank accounts, loan servicing and debt collection, put out a new report this week that essentially puts financial industry players on notice. The agency said it will be paying close attention to customer experiences with chatbots to make sure they are not violating legal or consumer obligations. It also notes the top 10 US commercial banks all use chatbots to engage with customers.
“When chatbots fail in the markets for consumer financial products and services, they not only break customer trust, but they also have the potential to cause widespread harm. The stakes for being wrong when a person’s financial stability is at risk are high,” the agency wrote.
For example, it said, if a chatbot gives you faulty or misguided information in response to a query, that can lead to inappropriate fees being charged, or a customer choosing an inferior financial product.
The report also advised that financial institutions “should avoid using chatbots as their primary customer service delivery channel” when it is “reasonably clear” the bots are not meeting customer needs.
The CFPB already has a treasure trove of chatbot-related complaints. Common among them are complaints about the technical limitations of what a chatbot can do in response to a query; customers feeling stuck or frustrated or simply thinking that their time has been wasted; and consumers receiving inaccurate information or ending up having to pay “junk” fees because they didn’t get tailored support for their problem.
“Chatbots may be useful for resolving basic inquiries, but their effectiveness wanes as problems become more complex,” the report noted.
CFPB invites consumers who have complaints about their experience with financial service chatbots to register them here or to call (855) 411-CFPB (2372).
It also invites employees of companies providing financial products and services to report any potential violations of federal consumer financial laws.
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