Consumer Complaint FAQs

What institutions can DFI investigate?

DFI can only investigate complaints against those financial institutions, escrow depository companies, and money transmitters that are within DFI’s regulatory jurisdiction, which means those institutions chartered or licensed by DFI. To see a listing of these institutions, go to “DFI-Regulated Institutions”, which is divided into types of institutions and shows each institution’s main or administrative office address and phone number. If your financial institution is not listed there, please see the Answer to Question 3, “If my institution is not chartered or licensed by DFI, who is the primary regulator for my institution?”.

Are there other agencies (other than DFI) that regulate Hawaii-chartered or Hawaii-licensed banks, savings and loan associations, depository financial services loan companies, and credit unions?

Yes, federal agencies also regulate Hawaii-chartered or Hawaii-licensed banks, savings and loan associations, depository financial services loan companies, and credit unions. While DFI is the “primary regulator” because it is the chartering agency, each of these types of institutions is also supervised by a federal agency:

  • All Hawaii-chartered banks are regulated by one of two federal agencies:
    1. State-chartered banks that have elected to be members of the Federal Reserve System are supervised by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve (FRB).
    2. State-chartered banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System are supervised by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
  • All Hawaii-chartered savings and loan associations are supervised by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS).
  • All Hawaii-licensed depository financial services loan companies are supervised by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
  • All Hawaii-chartered credit unions are supervised by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

For more information on these federal regulators, including mailing addresses, telephone numbers and Web addresses, click on “Federal Regulators”. To go directly to an agency’s Web site, click on the agency’s name.

If my institution is not chartered or licensed by DFI, who is the primary regulator for my institution?

If not chartered or licensed by DFI, your institution may be chartered or licensed either by a federal agency or by another state’s regulatory agency. That agency would be your institution’s primary regulator.

The three federal agencies that charter financial institutions are:

Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) charters and supervises national banks. (Hint: A bank having the word “National” or carrying the abbreviations “N.A.” or “N.S.&T.” in its name is subject to OCC supervision. For example, “Hawaii National Bank”.) Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) charters and supervises federal savings banks and federal savings and loan associations. (Hint: An institution with the initials “FSB” or words “Federal Savings Bank”, or a savings and loan association with the word “Federal” in its name, most likely is subject to OTS supervision. For example, “American Savings Bank, FSB”.) National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) charters, insures and supervises federal credit unions. (Hint: A credit union with the word “Federal” in its name is subject to NCUA supervision. For example, “Hawaii State Federal Credit Union”.) For more information, click above on the agency name to go to its Web site, or go to Federal Regulators for agency addresses, phone numbers, and Web addresses.

Each state has its own regulatory agency comparable to DFI, with power and authority to charter or to license various financial institutions. Some institutions which have contact with Hawaii consumers may be primarily regulated by one of those other state regulators. Many of them have Web sites which can be located by going to www.csbs.org/links/state_links.asp.

To determine which federal or state agency regulates or supervises your financial institution, it is best to contact your institution.

What can DFI do in response to a consumer complaint?

DFI can investigate and take certain actions only against those institutions within DFI’s regulatory jurisdiction (see answer to Question 1: ” What Institutions Can DFI Investigate?”).

If DFI has jurisdiction over the institution, DFI can direct the institution:

to discontinue violation of a law administered by DFI, namely the Code of Financial Institutions codified in Chapter 412, HRS, Chapter 449, HRS, which relates to escrow depositories, or Chapter 489D, HRS, which relates to money transmitters; to discontinue violation of an administrative rule administered by DFI , namely Chapters 16-24, 16-25, 16-26, 16-27, 16-28, and 16-31, Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR); to discontinue any unsafe or unsound practice; or to cease conducting business in an unsound or unsafe manner. DFI cannot litigate or seek monetary redress on behalf of individual complainants. DFI cannot serve as an arbitrator of private disputes and cannot determine contractual rights and obligations between an institution and an individual. DFI also cannot render opinions or interpretations to individuals so as to determine an individual’s rights against an institution.

While DFI will make every effort to help address consumer complaints, there are situations and transactions that are beyond the jurisdiction of DFI. For some complaints, particularly those involving the denial of loans, improper handling of checks, or the failure to disburse funds under a loan agreement, a consumer may need to consult an attorney about pursuing civil remedies.

How do I file a complaint about a financial institution, escrow depository or money transmitter that is regulated by DFI?

Complaints should be in writing, and mailed or delivered to the DFI office. DFI’s mailing and direct delivery addresses are listed in the answer to Question 6: ” Where Should I Send My Complaint?”.

Use of DFI’s Complaint Form is preferred, but not required. To download or to view the form and its accompanying information sheet, click above on “Complaint Form”. Upon request, DFI will mail the Complaint Form to you. You may also pick up the form at the DFI office.

If you need assistance in putting your complaint in written form, please contact the DFI office.

Information you should include in your written complaint:

Your name, address and telephone number. Name of the institution the complaint is against, name of the branch office (if applicable), address and telephone number. Detailed description of the specific complaint against the institution, giving the dates involved and the names of the people with whom you dealt. Names, addresses and telephone numbers of the persons you have dealt with who are important to your complaint. Copies (not originals) of all pertinent documents, such as contracts, letters, receipts and statements. Description of the resolution you desire or would find acceptable. Your signature and the date signed.

Where should I send my complaint?

If by mail:

Division of Financial Institutions

Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs P.O. Box 2054 Honolulu, HI 96805

If in person or by courier:

Division of Financial Institutions Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs 335 Merchant Street, Room 221 Honolulu, HI 96813

What will DFI do with my complaint?

Upon receiving a complaint, DFI will determine whether it is within its regulatory jurisdiction. (See ” Question 1: What institutions can DFI investigate?”) If the complaint is not within DFI’s jurisdiction, DFI will refer it to the appropriate agency.

If the complaint falls within DFI’s regulatory jurisdiction, DFI will send a copy of the complaint to the appropriate institution and request that the institution provide a response to you and to DFI within a set time, usually a deadline of fifteen days from the date of receipt by the institution. DFI will also send you a letter acknowledging receipt of the complaint and outlining the procedures that will be followed in handling the complaint.

After receiving a response from the institution, DFI may either request more information or documentation from the institution or from you, or determine that no further action need be taken by DFI at that time because the situation is resolved or because the matter must be pursued in a civil action. Where investigation warrants, DFI may take appropriate regulatory action, as described in the Answer to Question 4, “What can DFI do in response to a consumer complaint?”. In any event, you and the institution will be kept apprised of the status of the complaint