United States

CFPB proposes to publicize customer stories in complaint database


A new proposal by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) aims to give consumers a public forum to register their complaints about financial companies. The proposal would allow complaints to be written by the consumer and then published in narrative or descriptive form on the CFPB public-facing website. This goes a step further than the Bureau's current practice, which is to simply publish basic facts about the complaint in its online complaint database.   

The proposed change would allow the complaint to be fleshed out in greater detail by the consumer, providing the issue with greater context and perspective. Likewise, the financial company subject to the complaint would be given "equal air time." Its response, which may also be descriptive or narrative, would be posted next to the consumer's story on the CFPB website. 

The decision to share a personal narrative publicly would be optional and would require the consent of the complainant via an opt-in process. Both complaint and response would be scrubbed of personal identifying data. The CFPB notes that the purpose of publishing consumer narratives is to "provide important context to the complaint, help the public to detect specific trends in the market, aid consumer decision-making and drive improved consumer service."

If the proposal is implemented, it would give complainants a much greater voice than they have under the current regime. The Consumer Complaint Database presently on the CFPB public website includes only the most basic information, such as date of submission, the consumer's zip code, the name of the company, the product type, the issue the consumer is complaining about and the company's response.

If successful, the new process would encompass any complaint under the purview of the CFPB, including complaints about credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts, private student loans, vehicle loans, credit reporting, debt collection and payday loans. The Notice of Proposed Policy Statement was published in the Federal Register on July 23, 2014, and the period for public comments ended on Aug. 22, 2014.