The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced June 19 that it is publishing data surrounding consumer complaints on credit cards, and that it plans to publish information about other kinds of complaints in the future. While some consumer groups are hailing the move, the American Bankers Association called it disappointing.
“The Bureau’s plan to release unverified data is disappointing and could mislead consumers,” said ABA’s Kenneth Clayton, executive vice president of legislative affairs and chief counsel. “Publishing allegations is often different than publishing facts. The bureau itself acknowledges the complaints could be inaccurate, and in fact plans to disclaim their accuracy. This makes the proposed database a questionable – even misleading – resource and risks tarnishing the reputation of individual companies without substantiation.”
CFBP Director Richard Cordray, however, sees the publication of the consumer complaint information as helpful. “Each and every time we hear from American consumers about their troublesome transactions with financial products, it gives us important insight,” he said. “The information helps us and it should be available to help others too. By making our data publicly available, initially in the area of credit cards, we hope to improve the transparency and efficiency of this essential consumer market.”
CFPB says it has receive more than 45,000 consumer complaints since opening shop on July 21, 2011 – 19,000 complaints have been related to mortgages, 17,000 related to credit cards and 6,500 related to checking accounts or other bank products and services.
ABA noted that out of 383 million credit card accounts, the number of complaints represents “less than one-hundredth of one percent” of customers who have submitted complaints to the CFPB.
Beginning June 19, the CFPB went live on its website with a beta version of the consumer complaint database. The database shows the type of complaint, the ZIP code of the person filing the complaint, the timeliness and manner of follow-up by the bank, and other information. The CFPB published separately a snapshot of what it calls “success stories,” based on situations it was able to help consumers resolve.
The CFPB currently is accepting comments on a proposal to publish data on other kinds of consumer complaints. Comments can be filed until July 19.
CFPB is permitted to publish complaints only related to financial institutions with $10 billion in assets or more. Complaints received about smaller institutions are referred to the bank’s prudential regulator.