The Magic of Fintech? Insights for a Regulatory Agenda from Analyzing Student Loan Complaints Filed with the CFPB


This paper looks at consumer complaints about student loan lenders and servicers from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) consumer complaint database. Using a novel dataset drawn from 30,678 complaints filed against 212 student loan companies, we analyze consumers’ subjective views about whether traditional or fintech student loan lenders and servicers provide a better customer experience. Overall, we find that consumers initiate far fewer complaints against fintech lenders than traditional lenders. But we find that fintech lenders are twenty-eight times more likely than traditional lenders to receive complaints for making confusing or misleading advertisements. Our data also show that complaints against fintech lenders or servicers have not risen in parallel with greater loan volume by those firms, despite the rising number of complaints being filed against traditional lenders and servicers, as those firms continue to dominate the market share of student loan lending and servicing. We consider various reasons for this difference, including whether this means fintech student loan companies are providing a better consumer experience.