Financial group launches campaign criticizing CFPB push

The financial industry is launching a public campaign blasting a proposed government plan to make public consumer complaints.

A top industry group has plans to buy ads in and around Washington, as well as on social media, to highlight what it views as a one-sided and misleading initiative from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The Financial Services Roundtable, which represents some of the largest banks and financial institutions in the country, is behind the campaign. The group is also launching a website devoted to criticizing the effort, at CFPBrumors.com.

"The CFPB's plan will feature only one side of the story, and such one-sided accounts will not advance the CFPB's mission of better informing and helping consumers,” said Tim Pawlenty, president and CEO of the group.

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The consumer agency announced plans in July to provide more detail to its public consumer complaint database. Currently, the CFPB provides basic identifying information about more than 400,000 complaints it has received, including the companies involved and the general issue at hand.

But now, the CFPB wants to provide even greater detail for each complaint, which could be easily searched by members of the public. The regulator argues that giving the public the opportunity to detail their complaint can help others make informed decisions and empower those with complaints.

"Before the CFPB began accepting complaints, many consumers had nowhere to turn to receive a timely response from their financial services provider," said Samuel Gilford, a CFPB spokesperson. 

And while companies will have the chance to publish a response to each complaint, the industry has fiercely pushed back on the idea. They argue that publishing complaints as they arrive could paint a misleading picture of a company, and the groups note that roughly 70 percent of complaints received thus far were closed with a simple explanation.

But Gilford noted that the explanation sometimes was critical to consumers, such as in the case when a consumer was struggling with a mortgage and got specific information about what steps they could take.

This post updated at 12:38 pm.

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