Consumer bureau breaks the seal on complaints about banks

Federal regulators on Thursday released the first batch of complaints from consumers about banks and other financial services industry players, defying industry groups who opposed their publication.

Officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released 7,700 consumer complaints about their experiences in dealings with the financial services industry.

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“The Bureau's work improves as we hear directly from consumers," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. "Every complaint tells us what people are facing in the financial marketplace. Publishing these consumer stories today is a historic milestone that we believe will lead to better outcomes for everyone."

Noting that the complaints are not verified, companies have warned that the information on the government-operated site poses a risk to their reputations.

Richard Hunt, president of the Consumer Bankers Association, said that they're "profoundly disappointed" that the bureau decided to move forward with the database.

CFPB officials are allowing for financial companies to respond to the complaints publicly, but Hunt said that won't be enough to alleviate their concerns.

"The vast majority of banks will choose not to respond publicly, but will continue the long held tradition of speaking with their customers in confidence," Hunt said. "Publishing unverified one-sided narratives does not benefit consumers. The CFPB prides itself on being a data-driven agency, but today’s action is simply a public shaming of banks."

CFPB officials said they're seeking more industry input on ways to enhance the process.

Hunt called that action "a step in the right direction."