Speaking at a field hearing in Des Moines, Iowa, CFPB Director Richard Cordray invited citizens from all ranks of society to use the data contained in its recently-expanded complaint data base. Speaking at the Des Moines Central Library on March 28, Cordray said there are at least three benefits derived from the publication of complaints.
First, he said, each complaint offers a chance for the CFPB to evaluate a perceived problem and attempt to promote resolution. Second, he said, the complaints help the bureau identify and prioritize problems. And third, he said, “the accumulation of complaints from many thousands of individual consumers yields an ever-more informative impression of what is happening to consumers en masse in the marketplace.”
Cordray is clearly proud of the database; he announced a substantial expansion of the database at the Des Moines event. On March 28, the data base was expanded from approximately 19,000 complaints related to credit cards to more than 90,000 complaints related to all matters of financial services.
“The amount of information you can glean from our Consumer Complaint Database is gigantic,” he said. “We are most excited to be making this information available because we believe that disclosure is one of the best tools government agencies can use to improve the operations of the marketplace. People across the spectrum can draw their own conclusions from the database.”
You can get a look at the database by clicking here.
Cordray called the database a “valuable educational and shopping tool.” Information about the types of complaints received about particular banks, and the timeliness of the response, Cordray said, could influence a consumer’s selection of financial institution.
Critics have complained that the CFPB does not verify the accuracy of a complaint before posting it. The CFPB does verify that the person filing the complaint has a relationship with the bank they are complaining about.
Cordray said the bureau supports “an open-data agenda.” He said. “As part of our Project Catalyst, a program developed to support innovation in the consumer finance space, we will be using this and other upcoming opportunities to participate in more open-data initiatives.”
Cordray said he encourages the public, “including consumers, the companies that serve them, analysts, data scientists, civic hackers, developers, policymakers, journalists and academics,” to use the information in the database. “We want you to do whatever you want with this data,” he said, suggesting there may be ways to match the information with other public data for useful purposes.