WASHINGTON, D.C. — It just became easier for consumers to complain to the Federal Reserve about issues with banks and financial institutions.

Earlier this week, the Fed introduced Federal Reserve Consumer Help, which is a new centralized resource that consolidates and streamlines its consumer complaint and inquiry program.  

Customer service professionals are available to answer questions and assist with a wide range of issues relating to financial products and services and consumer protection laws.

"For more than 30 years, the Federal Reserve has put its expertise to work to answer consumers' questions and help them resolve problems with financial institutions," explained Randall Kroszner, Federal Reserve Board Governor. 

Over the years, the Federal Reserve indicated it has helped an estimated 150,000 consumers. 

Basically, as many are aware, the Federal Reserve is responsible for ensuring that the financial institutions it supervises comply with consumer protection and fair lending laws, such as those governing checking and savings accounts, credit cards and consumer loans. 

It is also responsible for ensuring that consumers have a mechanism for identifying banking acts or practices that may require further investigation or possible regulatory action.

"To make it more convenient for consumers to contact us, we created a one-stop complaint and inquiry site where consumers know they can go to get help," Gov. Kroszner said.

Consumers calling the new toll-free number, (888) 851-1920, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (CT) can speak directly to a customer service professional. After hours, callers may leave a message and Federal Reserve Consumer Help staff will return the calls the next business day.

According to officials, the new Web site, www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov, was designed with easy, electronic access in mind and allows consumers to submit a complaint or inquiry electronically. 

The Web site provides answers to commonly asked banking questions and links to many consumer protection materials and resources. 

Consumers can also find an updated version of the brochure "How to File a Consumer Complaint Against a Bank" on the site. This brochure explains in a step-by-step fashion the Federal Reserve's complaint process and tells consumers what to expect during a complaint investigation. 

Copies of the brochure are available by calling or writing to Federal Reserve Consumer Help.

Overall, consumers can contact Federal Reserve Consumer Help through a variety of methods, including:

Online: www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov

E-mail: ConsumerHelp@FederalReserve.gov

Toll-free: 888-851-1920 (8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT)

Toll-free TTY: 877-766-8533

Toll-free fax: 877-888-2520

Mail: Federal Reserve Consumer Help, P.O. Box 1200, Minneapolis, MN  55480

"Consumers do not have to know which federal bank regulator (there are five) supervises the bank that they are concerned about in order to file a complaint or inquiry," executives explained. 

"Federal Reserve Consumer Help will direct consumers to the appropriate regulator and has made arrangements with several other banking regulators to transfer callers directly to another representative at the appropriate agency," officials concluded.