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The government's new consumer protection agency started accepting complaints Monday about student loans.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it expects complaints about billing, confusing advertising and collection by private student lenders. It will relay complaints about federal student loans, such as Stafford and PLUS loans, to the Department of Education.
Americans owe more to student lenders than they owe to credit card issuers or any other category of unsecured lender, the CFPB said. Mortgages are considered secured loans because banks can foreclose on the house if a borrower stops making payments.
"Getting a higher education can mean taking on significant debt -- a big decision with a lot of consequences," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement.
The CFPB was created by Congress to oversee parts of the financial industry that were poorly regulated before the financial crisis. It will serve as a single contact point for consumers with complaints about most types of financial products.
Financial companies are expected to respond to consumer complaints within 15 days and resolve them within 60 days.
The agency is already accepting complaints about credit cards, mortgages and checking accounts. Consumers wishing to lodge a complaint can visit www.consumerfinance.gov or call 855-411-2372.
The CFPB has collected thousands of comments about private student loans from consumers and lenders and from within higher education since it invited opinions in November. It is analyzing those comments for a report to Congress later this year.
Follow Daniel Wagner at http://www.twitter.com/wagnerreports.