CFPB invites comments on “usefulness” of consumer complaint database, reports

Latest in string of requests for information from agency in upheaval

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s consumer complaint database and the reports derived from it have long been a source of consternation for the financial services industry, ever since the bureau decided to make those complaints public over the objections of many industry observers.

But there’s a new boss at the CFPB now, and he ain’t the same as the old boss.

In the last few months, CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney has firmly placed his stamp on the CFPB, even going far as to establish a new mission from the bureau that is far different from the CFPB’s mission under former director Richard Cordray.

Last month, Mulvaney announced that he planned to seek public input on all functions of the CFPB in order to “provide an opportunity for the public to submit feedback and suggest ways to improve outcomes for both consumers and covered entities.”

And now, the CFPB is asking for public comments on its consumer complaint gathering and reporting, including the controversial complaint database.

Specifically, the CFPB is asking for comments from “interested parties” on the “usefulness” of its complaint reporting and analysis, as well as specific suggestions or best practices for complaint reporting.

In the last 18 months, the CFPB topped 1 million complaints received in its database. The CFPB takes those complaints, analyzes them, and publishes reports about the number of complaints it’s received, the types of complaints, and the most complained about companies.

But the CFPB now wants to know if those reports are useful and how they might be changed moving forward, along with how the complaint database could be altered.

The CFPB’s request for information invites comments on a number of issues, including whether it is “net beneficial or net harmful” to the “transparent and efficient operation of markets for consumer financial products and services” for the CFPB to publicized the names of the most complained about companies.

The CFPB also wants to know whether it should notify the most complained about companies of their inclusion in a CFPB report prior to that report being published to allow them to comment if they so choose.

Additionally, the CFPB asks whether it should “expand, limit, or maintain” the same level of access to complaint information that is currently available to external stakeholders such as financial institutions and the public.

The CFPB request for information also invites comments on the following issues:

  • Whether the bureau should provide more, less, or the same data fields in the Consumer Complaint Database
  • Whether the bureau should include more, less, or the same amount of reporting on State and local complaint trends
  • Whether the bureau should supplement observations from consumer complaints with observations of company responses to complaints
  • Whether the bureau should share more, less, or the same amount of information on particular products and services
  • Whether the bureau should devote resources to building tools to enable users to analyze complaint information

The CFPB will begin accepting comments in early March and the comment period will remain open for 90 days.

The CFPB’s request for information on the consumer complaint process can be read in full here.

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