CFPB Unveils Complaint Database; Soon to Include Mortgages

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB)
rolled out another new consumer tool this morning, an on-line complaint
database
.  The database, currently in
beta format, provides loan-level information on complaints logged with the
Bureau by customers. The database is currently limited to complaints regarding
credit cards but the Bureau intends to expand it to include mortgages, payday loans,
and other consumer financial products.

There is no information that in any way identifies
the consumer, but the company issuing the card is identified as well as the
type of complaint (billing dispute, interest rate, collection practices, etc).  Other information includes the steps taken in
resolving the complaint, tracking dates and the current status of the
complaint. The accessibility of the information will allow consumers to track their
complaints (with an identifying number) and permit the public to judge the
actions of the bureau as well as assess the manner in which companies handle
and resolve disputes.  

Credit card companies are expected to
respond to consumer complaints within 15 days and to resolve all but the most
complicated issues within 60 days.  The
database indicates whether the dispute has been handled in a “timely” manner
and whether the customer has accepted the card company’s action.

The beta version of the site contains
information only on complaints received after June 1 however the Bureau intends
to backfill information once the full version of the program is on-line.

CFPB’s website said, “No longer will
consumer complaints only be known to the individual complainant, bank,
regulator, and those in the public willing to pursue this information through
the Freedom of Information Act. Instead this data-rich window into consumer
financial issues will be widely available to everyone: developers,
policymakers, journalists, academics, industry, and you. Our goal is to improve
the transparency and efficiency
of the credit card market to further empower
American consumers.”

ABA’s Response:

Kenneth Clayton, ABA’s executive vice president of legislative affairs and chief counsel

“While our industry stands ready to work with the CFPB to
resolve customer concerns, the Bureau’s plan to release unverified data
is disappointing and could mislead consumers.  Publishing allegations is
often different than publishing facts.  The Bureau itself acknowledges
the complaints could be inaccurate, and in fact plans to disclaim their
accuracy.*  This makes the proposed database a questionable – even
misleading – resource and risks tarnishing the reputation of individual
companies without substantiation.

“Complaint
resolutions are best handled in a fair and unbiased manner between the
parties involved.  Where regulators believe process problems exist, they
have ample authority to correct them.  Publicizing allegations that may
or may not have any basis in fact raises serious questions about the
balanced review we expect from our government agencies.  It feeds the
perception that the Bureau wishes to politicize the process rather than
analyze the facts involved.

“The banking industry takes every complaint seriously and
works every day to resolve customer issues.  We’re proud of the
customer service we provide and the numbers speak for themselves.  Of
the more than 383 million credit card accounts in the U.S., less than
one-hundredth of one percent have submitted a complaint to the Bureau. 
Customer satisfaction will always be our industry’s top priority.”

…(read more)

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