CFPB looks to go public with banking complaints

In a move certain to roil Wall Street, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is proposing to make the complaints it receives against financial firms and products available in a publicly searchable database. 

A draft policy statement unveiled Tuesday seeks to allow consumers to share the details of their negative experiences when they file a complaint via the agency’s Consumer Complaint Database.

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The agency, which turns 3 years old this month, has collected more than 400,000 complaints, but its public database currently contains just basic information about the complaints, such the date of submission, the consumer’s zip code, the name of the company, the product type and the general issue the consumer is complaining about.

“The consumer experience shared in the narrative is the heart and soul of the complaint,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said. “By publicly voicing their complaint, consumers can stand up for themselves and others who have experienced the same problem.”

Adding an option for people to make the substance of their complaints publicly viewable would give greater attention to their grievances, allow other consumers to spot trends and promote competition among companies to offer better services, the agency reasons. 

The proposal makes clear that those filing complaints would have to opt into sharing their experiences, no personally identifying information would be made public and they could withdraw the complaint at any time. 

Also, companies would be able to publish responses to the complaints, the CFPB said. 

The agency will publish its proposal in the Federal Register, starting the clock on a 30-day comment period. Comments received in that time will be reviewed before the policy is finalized.