CFPB adds another layer to controversial complaint database

Seeks comment by Sept. 30

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s complaint database could get another adjustment, as the bureau seeks comments on a proposed addition to the current complaint intake form.

According to an article by Tristram Wolf in the CFPB Monitor, the CFPB filed a request for information in Monday’s federal register.

“The purpose of this information collection is to incorporate a short survey into the complaint closing process. Consumers will have the option to provide feedback on the company’s response to and handling of their complaint via all channels including online, phone, fax, and mail,” the filing stated.

“The results of this feedback will be shared with the company that responded to the complaint to inform its complaint handling. The feedback will also be used to inform CFPB’s work to supervise companies, enforce Federal consumer financial laws, write better rules and regulations and monitor the market for consumer financial products and services.”

The bureau noted that it will evaluate the data collected from consumer feedback before publication on the Consumer Complaint Database. And it will only publish those feedback narratives for which opt-in consumer consent is obtained, and to which robust personal information scrubbing standard methodology is applied.

As the CFPB Monitor describes the change, “The proposed feedback field would replace the existing ‘dispute’ function that currently allows consumers to indicate their dissatisfaction with a company’s response. Instead, consumers will have the option to score the company’s response from 1 to 5 and to provide a narrative description of the rationale for the number they selected.”

The bureau first proposed the consumer complaint database a little more than two years ago.

Under that proposal, when consumers submitted a complaint to the CFPB, they then had the option to share their account of what happened in the CFPB’s public-facing Consumer Complaint Database.

But the industry did not welcome the idea, with the bureau receiving numerous objections from the mortgage finance industry that publishing unvetted, anonymous complaints on a government website could be problematic. The bureau, however, decided the move ahead with its plan.  

In its latest change to the database, the bureau said it is seeking comment on the following:

  • Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Bureau, including whether the information will have practical utility
  • The accuracy of the Bureau’s estimate of the burden of the collection of information, including the validity of the methods and the assumptions used
  • Ways to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information to be collected; and
  • Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

Written comments must be received on or before Sept. 30, 2016 to be assured of consideration.

This isn’t the only issue up for discussion on the complaint database.

Rep. Matt Salmon, R-AZ, recently introduced a bill, entitled the CFPB Data Accountability Act, into the House of Representatives in June, saying that the CFPB’s database, in its current format, is confusing to consumers and is not as usable as it could be.

“My bill would improve the current database by requiring the CFPB to verify the facts of each complaint and present this information in an aggregated format so that consumers have better access to CFPB-collected data and can make better decisions about their financial futures,” Salmon said.

Salmon’s bill is currently set for review by the House Financial Services Committee. If it passes out of committee, it will proceed to the full House for review.

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