CFPB Finalizes New Consumer Complaint Policy
The CFPB finalized a policy that will allow consumers who submit complaints to the bureau to share their personal accounts of what occurred in the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database.
The bureau started accepting complaints from consumers in July 2011 and established its Consumer Complaint Database in June 2012. Last July, it proposed a policy that would allow consumers to publicly share their individual stories when filing complaints.
On Thursday, the CFPB also said it plans to publish a request for public input on ways the bureau can highlight positive consumer experiences.
At this time, the CFPB accepts complaints from consumers regarding mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, money transfers, debt collection, credit reporting and payday loans. As of March 1, the CFPB said it has handled 558,800 complaints. Among those complaints, mortgages and debt collection were the most frequently mentioned subjects.
“Consumer narratives shed light on the full consumer perspective behind a complaint,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said. “Narratives humanize the problems consumers face in the marketplace. Today’s policy will serve to empower consumers by helping them make informed decisions and helping track trends in the consumer financial market.”
Under the new finalized policy, consumers can fill in information such as their background, which entity the complaint is against, and when the incident occurred. Consumers will be provided with a text box to describe what occurred, and given the option to attach documents to the complaint. After a complaint is filed, the CFPB will send it to the targeted company for a response and the consumer will receive a unique tracking number for the case.
The CFPB said the final policy includes safeguards for a fair and transparent process, including giving consumers the option to share their explanation of what happened, removing any personal information from the complaint and not requiring companies to offer a public response. The CFPB will also allow consumers to withdraw approvals to publish the narrative in the Consumer Complaint Database at any time.
NAFCU warned that the CFPB’s complaint new policy could allow inaccurate information to harm the reputation of financial institutions.
“Credit unions already take great care in resolving their members’ complaints directly,” NAFCU Director of Regulatory Affairs Alicia Nealon said. “NAFCU, however, is concerned that this new policy may allow unsubstantiated information into the complaint resolution process. We believe such incomplete and unsubstantiated information will not only create an inaccurate picture of an institution, but it will also make the complaint process more complicated and confusing for consumers and institutions.”
Last year, Luke Martone, CUNA senior assistant general counsel, said the original proposal could put financial institutions at risk of suffering severe reputational harm.
"We have great concern that various privacy laws, including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and other existing privacy protections could effectively prohibit financial institutions from responding to a narrative complaint, at least with any degree of detail," he wrote in a letter. "Essentially, the institution will be prohibited from effectively addressing the complaint in its response due to consumer privacy protections."