The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is still taking comments on its proposed open consumer-complaint narrative database, and it’s offering some responses to criticisms as well.
On Thursday HousingWire reviewed an open letter to the CFPB from George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, along with reviewing some other criticisms by HousingWire and outside critics.
“We believe that complaints are a window into the customer experience, and we take them very seriously,” a CFPB spokesperson said. “Complaints help identify risks to consumers, and can lead to supervision and enforcement actions. Complaint narratives about consumer products and autos are published by other government agencies and provide real benefits.
“We would hope that honest businesses would welcome this same sunlight in the financial services market,” the spokesperson said.
Regarding complaints that are closed with explanation, the CFPB said the following.
“Before the CFPB began accepting complaints, many consumers had nowhere to turn to receive a timely response from their financial services provider. The majority of consumers go to their financial institutions before they complain to the CFPB,” the spokesperson said. “Consumers frequently describe their prior efforts to resolve their issue with the company directly in the complaints submitted to the Bureau. For many consumers, an explanation from their lender or service provider offers helpful insight or clarity.”
The CFPB said that as far as the point raised by HousingWire about mortgage complaints being "tossed out,"— “Over 70% of mortgage complaints have been ‘closed with explanation’ which is a company’s indication that the steps taken in response to the complaint included an explanation tailored to the individual consumer’s complaint.”
They cite as an example in the case of a mortgage complaint where a consumer is dissatisfied with a loss mitigation process, a thoughtful company response that explains the process and outlines next steps based on the consumer’s particular situation should be categorized by the company as “Closed with explanation.”
Also, only 2% of mortgage complaints handled by the CFPB as of June 2014 were closed without relief or explanation.
As to the charge that complaints aren’t vetted, the CFPB says it is verified that the consumer has a relationship with the entity and that complaints aren’t duplicates, even if it doesn’t vet the veracity of the claim.
“Consumer Response screens all complaints submitted by consumers based on several criteria. These criteria include whether the complaint falls within the CFPB’s primary enforcement authority, whether the complaint is complete, whether it is submitted by a consumer with an authenticated commercial relationship with the identified company, and whether the complaint is a duplicate of a prior submission by the same consumer. Screened complaints are sent via a secure web portal to the appropriate company,” the CFPB states.