The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced several changes to its consumer complaint database while it will continue publication of consumer complaints, data fields and narrative descriptions
Those changes include: modified disclaimers to provide better context to the published data; integrating financial information and resources into the complaint process to help address questions and better inform consumers before they submit a complaint; and information to assist consumers who wish to contact the financial company to get answers to their specific questions.
Additionally, the bureau said it will work to provide enhanced features for the database that include dynamic visualization tools on recent complaint data.
The database has been a source of industry objections and internal issues since its launch, especially in the wake of the addition of the consumer narrative element in 2015. Under previous acting director Mick Mulvaney, it went dormant for a time in 2018. When the agency asked for feedback last year, it received more than 25,000 comments from industry stakeholders.
The move was praised by some in the financial services industry. “We appreciate the CFPB’s efforts to provide greater context for the information in its consumer complaint database,” said Virginia O’Neill, executive vice president of regulatory compliance and policy at the American Bankers Association. “The addition of prominent disclosures indicating that the Bureau doesn’t verify allegations in complaint narratives and that complaints don’t necessarily represent all consumers’ experiences are appropriate and welcome.”
The additions will more prominently display disclosures making it clear that the database is not a statistical sample of consumers’ experiences in the marketplace. They also will highlight the availability of answers to common financial questions prior to complaint submission and contact information for financial companies.
“After carefully examining and considering all stakeholder and public input, we are announcing the continued publication of complaints with enhanced data and context that will benefit consumers and users of the database while addressing many of the concerns raised,” said CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger. “The continued publication of the database, along with the enhancements, empowers consumers and informs the public.”
In expanding the database, the bureau plans to add dynamic visualization tools (including for geospatial and trend views) based on recent complaint data. The bureau will emphasize features for aggregation and analysis and explore expanding the company’s ability to respond publicly to individual complaints. It also said it would continue to explore ways to better contextualize the data, such as by incorporating product or service market share and company size.
To date, the bureau has handled more than 1.9 million complaints. More than 5,000 financial companies have responded through this process, providing timely responses to 97 percent of the more than 1.3 million complaints sent to them for response.