The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has gone ahead with its inclusion of a consumer narrative element in its complaint database.
The expansion, proposed in July 2014, went live on June 25 and allows consumers to opt-in to publicly share the narrative portion of a complaint; previously, it was kept private. Since the bureau launched the feature, more than half of submitters have opted into the narrative-sharing.
Narratives will not be published until the company in question provides a public-facing response or after it has had the question for 60 days.
Complaints must meet certain requirements in order to be published. They must be submitted through the CFPB website, they cannot duplicate a previous submission, and the consumer must have a confirmed relationship with the financial institution in question. The bureau takes steps to ensure that complaints are real and to confirm the relationship between consumer and company, it said.
Some industry advocates have been critical of the publication of the narratives, saying that reputational harm may result from the possible publication of unverified information. While acknowledging industry concerns, the CFPB said that the greater transparency of information will improve customer service and compliance mechanisms.
“Disclosure of consumer narratives will provide companies with greater insight into issues and challenges occurring across their markets, which can supplement their own company-specific perspectives and lend more insight into appropriate practices,” the bureau said when it finalized the expansion in March.
The expanded database, first launched in June 2012, includes more than 7,700 consumer accounts of problems they are facing with financial companies, the bureau said. Complaints include information such as date of submission, the consumer’s ZIP code, the relevant company and product type, the issue the consumer is complaining about, and how the company handled the complaint. Information that could identify the consumer is kept confidential.
“The bureau’s work improves as we hear directly from consumers,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Every complaint tells us what people are facing in the financial marketplace. Publishing these consumer stories today is a historic milestone that we believe will lead to better outcomes for everyone.”