At noon today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released the news that they have gone live with an enhanced public-facing consumer complaint database that includes over 7,700 consumer accounts of problems they are facing with financial companies. 2,246 (29%) of the 7,700 are about debt collection. 77% of these complaints with public consumer narratives do not contain a public company response.
This is the breakdown of complaints with public narratives by sub-product:
|Other (phone, healthclub, etc.)
|Field left blank
|Non-Federal Student Loan
|Federal Student Loan
In March 2015, the Bureau started offering consumers the option of making their “narratives,” or free-form explanation of their issue, public. Their position was that consumer narratives provide a firsthand account of the consumer’s experience. The narratives provide context to complaints, are easily searchable, and help spotlight specific trends. The narratives can also help consumers to make more informed decisions, as well as encourage companies to improve the overall quality of their products and services and more vigorously compete over good customer service.
As part of today’s announcement the CFPB stated that more than half of consumers chose to share this information.
When this was originally announced, some industry groups complained that it would be misleading to allow consumers to – in essence – tell their side of the story while not giving companies the same opportunity. Upon further thought, companies realized that having a wide range of employee author individual responses might be a high risk recipe. In response, the CFPB added a series of pre-determined selections that would give companies the ability to provide a response of some kind beyond the administrative responses they already provide to each complaint. Companies may choose whether or not to select one of these:
These are the options offered to companies for complaints submitted after the policy statement:
|Description displayed in Consumer Complaint Database
|Company acted appropriately
|Company believes it acted appropriately as authorized by contract or law
|Company disputes the facts presented in the complaint
|Unable to verify facts
|Company can’t verify or dispute the facts in the complaint
|Company believes the complaint is the result of a misunderstanding
|Discontinued policy or procedure
|Company believes complaint relates to a discontinued policy or procedure
|Opportunity for improvement
|Company believes complaint represents an opportunity for improvement to better serve consumers
|Company believes complaint is the result of an isolated error
|Company believes complaint caused principally by actions of third party outside the control or direction of the company
|No public response
|Company chooses not to provide a public response
insideARM recently reported on Complaint Portal confusion among debt collection firms. Among other issues, one topic addressed was the fact that, of all collection agencies informally polled, none was planning yet to use these new response options, although they had plans to discuss the matter among management to evaluate the risks vs. benefits of doing so.
Of the data released today, 77% of the complaints with consumer narratives related to debt collection also contain a public company response.
Under the CFPB policy, companies also have 180 days to select an optional public-facing response to be included in the public database. These company responses are included in the database for the first time today.
This policy builds on the safeguards the CFPB’s database already has in place. Complaints are listed in the database after the company responds to the complaint or after it has had the complaint for 15 days, whichever comes first. The CFPB will disclose the consumer narrative when the company provides its public-facing response, or after the company has had the complaint for 60 calendar days, whichever comes first.
The CFPB also announced today new functionality offered to users of Complaint Portal data, including the ability to:
- Search for specific product names or features: Users can now search consumer narratives for product names or features such as the brand name of a credit card or a mortgage feature.
- Highlight specific company practices and problems: Users can search for terms in consumer accounts of what happened such as “lost paperwork,” “foreclosure scam,” or “robo-signing.”
- Break down information by state: Users can sort complaints by state and zip code to spotlight local trends and information.
The CFPB is also publishing a Request for Information today seeking input on whether there are ways to enable the public to more easily understand and make comparisons of the complaint information. Specifically, the Bureau is looking for ideas to enable the public to more easily understand information in the database and make comparisons of the complaints by normalizing, or adding additional context to, the complaint data.
The Request for Information is available at: