CFPB Adds Narratives to Complaint Database
The CFPB proposed a new policy Wednesday that would expand the information it publicly discloses on its complaint database to include consumer narratives.
In July 2011, the CFPB started accepting complaints against the entities it regulates regarding mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts, debt collection, private student loans, consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers and payday loans. According to the CFPB, the database contains the nation’s largest public collection of consumer financial complaints, currently totaling more than 400,000.
“When consumers submit a complaint to the CFPB, they would have the option to share their account of what happened in the CFPB’s public-facing Consumer Complaint Database,” said a CFPB press release about the new policy.
“Publishing consumer narratives would provide important context to the complaint, help the public detect specific trends in the market, aid consumer decision-making and drive improved consumer service,” the release also said.
According to the official policy statement, allowing narratives in consumer complaints benefits the bureau.
“By increasing the direct benefits to consumers of submitting a complaint, publishing complaint narratives may expand the number of complaints submitted to the bureau and thereby enhance the value of the Consumer Complaint Database,” the official policy statement said.
“The Bureau also would benefit by further establishing itself as a leader in the realm of open government and open data,” the statement also said.
Companies would also be given the opportunity to post a written response that would appear next to the consumer’s story. In most cases, this response would appear at the same time as the consumer’s narrative so that reviewers could see both sides concurrently.
Both the narratives and responses would be scrubbed to prevent personal account information from being shared online, the CFPB said.
“Credit unions take great care to address their member’s complaints directly and foster ongoing relationships with their members. NAFCU has serious concerns about the potential for undue reputation risks to financial institutions relative to unsubstantiated claims," said NAFCU Director of Regulatory Affairs Mike Coleman. "NAFCU will closely examine the proposal and its impact on credit unions, however, at first blush the risks of unwarranted reputational harm to good actors far outweigh any benefits this proposal would create to assist the CFPB to resolve legitimate complaints.”
CFPB Director Richard Cordray called the consumer experience shared in the narrative the heart and soul of a complaint.
“By publicly voicing their complaint, consumers can stand up for themselves and others who have experienced the same problem,” he said. “There is power in their stories, and that power can be put in service to strengthen the foundation for consumers, responsible providers, and our economy as a whole.”
The complaints submitted include the consumer’s name, the entity the grievance is being filed against and when the incident occurred.
Consumers are provided with a text box to explain the details of the situation and attach documents to the complaint. The CFPB said it sends the complaint to the company involved, allows it time to respond, provides the consumer with a tracking number and updates consumers on the status of the complaint.
There is a 30-day comment period on the policy after publication in the Federal Register.
The CFPB currently supervises four credit unions: the $58 billion Navy Federal Credit Union, the $28 billion State Employees' Credit Union, the $18 billion Pentagon Federal Credit Union and the $13 billion BECU. The $10 billion SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union will join that group next January.
Complaints collected by the CFPB against smaller credit unions are forwarded to the NCUA for investigation.