Special to HNN from a Provided Press Release
Richard Cordray
Richard Cordray

The  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 proposed a new policy that would empower consumers to publicly voice their complaints about consumer financial products and services.

When consumers submit a complaint to the CFPB, they would have the option to share their account of what happened in the CFPB’s public-facing Consumer Complaint Database. Publishing consumer narratives would provide important context to the complaint, help the public detect specific trends in the market, aid consumer decision-making, and drive improved consumer service.

“The consumer experience shared in the narrative is the heart and soul of the complaint,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “By publicly voicing their complaint, consumers can stand up for themselves and others who have experienced the same problem. There is power in their stories, and that power can be put in service to strengthen the foundation for consumers, responsible providers, and our economy as a whole.”

A copy of the proposed policy can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201407_cfpb_proposed-policy_consumer-complaint-database.pdf 

                                                                                                                                    

The CFPB began accepting complaints as soon as it opened its doors three years ago in July 2011. It currently accepts complaints on many consumer financial products, including credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers, debt collection, and payday loans.

When consumers submit a complaint to the Bureau, they fill in information such as who they are, who the complaint is against, and when it occurred. They are also given a text box to describe what happened and can attach documents to the complaint. The Bureau forwards the complaint to the company, allows the company to respond, gives the consumer a tracking number, and keeps the consumer updated on its status. To date, the Bureau has handled more than 400,000 complaints.

The CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database is the nation’s largest public collection of consumer financial complaints. It includes basic, anonymous, individual-level information about the complaints received, including the date of submission, the consumer’s zip code, the relevant company, the product type, the issue the consumer is complaining about, and the company’s response.

Adding Narratives to the Consumer Complaint Database

Today, the Bureau is proposing to expand the database to include the consumer’s narrative description of what happened. In many ways, the narratives are the most insightful part of a complaint. They provide a first-hand account of the consumer’s experience and the problem they would like resolved. By giving consumers an option to publicly share their stories, the CFPB would greatly enhance the utility of the database, a platform designed to provide consumers with valuable information needed to make better financial choices for themselves and their families. The benefits of sharing the narratives include:

 

 

 

 

 

Safeguards for Publishing Process

The CFPB’s proposed policy recognizes the importance of protecting consumers’ private information, ensuring the informed consent of any consumer who participates, and providing companies with an opportunity to respond. Today’s proposal establishes a number of important safeguards for a clear, fair, and transparent process, including:

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s proposal builds on the safeguards the CFPB’s database already has in place. The CFPB confirms the commercial relationship between the consumer and company. Complaints are listed in the database only after the company responds to the complaint or after it has had the complaint for 15 days, whichever comes first.

 

Three Years of Consumer Response

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the CFPB, established the handling of consumer complaints as an integral part of the CFPB’s work. Today the CFPB released a snapshot overview of complaints handled since the Bureau opened on July 21, 2011 that includes aggregate data and analysis. The snapshot is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201407_cfpb_report_consumer-complaint-snapshot.pdf

 

This week, the CFPB is also releasing a series of videos of consumers who have been helped by the CFPB, some of them after submitting complaints. The “Everyone Has a Story” videos show real consumers who have run into trouble along their financial journey and have been helped by the CFPB. These stories will be available at:  www.consumerfinance.gov/yourstory

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visitconsumerfinance.gov.