Yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) announced that its consumer complaint database will remain published and accessible to the public. However, the Bureau plans to include certain enhancements to put the data into perspective, as a result of input from last year’s Request for Information regarding its controversial database (which, as mentioned in the current announcement, yielded almost 26,000 comments).
The enhancements will include certain front-end information for consumers before submitting their complaints. Such information includes answers to common financial questions as well as information about how to contact the company directly to answer specific questions.
For users of the database, the Bureau plans to provide information and disclosures that help put the complaint data in context. For example, the database will “more prominently display disclosures making it clear that the Consumer Complaint Database is not a statistical sample of consumers’ experiences in the marketplace.”
The Bureau also plans on expanding tools for analyzing the data within the database, such as including dynamic visualization tools and features that will allow aggregated analysis. The announcement explains these tools.
The Bureau is answering some of the more significant concerns raised by companies about the consumer complaint database. Specifically, companies are concerned that the CFPB lumps together general inquiries or requests with complaints and the fact that, when looking at debt collector’s interactions with consumers as a whole, complaints make up a very small minority of such interactions. Unaddressed, these two issues resulted in the Bureau’s period complaint snapshot report painting a slanted, doomsday-like picture of the industry. We will see whether future snapshot reports address these issues, but at least the complaint portal itself will contain certain tools that aim to solve these problems.