CFPB considers ending public access to bank complaints

“I don’t see anything in here that says I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government," Mulvaney says

A new report from the Wall Street Journal says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is likely to end the public’s access to a web portal used by consumers to file complaints against financial companies.

The WSJ’s Yuka Hayashi reports that CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney addressed his intention of eliminating access to the database on Tuesday during an address at the American Bankers Association’s conference, saying it contains information the government hasn't fully vetted.

“I don’t see anything in here that says I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government,” Mulvaney told an audience at the conference while holding up a copy of the Dodd-Frank Act, according to the report.

From the report:

Mr. Mulvaney said the bureau would continue to maintain a toll-free number and a website to gather consumer complaints and forward them to companies, but the database would be hidden from public view.

Mr. Mulvaney’s remarks came as the CFPB formally gathers comments from the financial industry and public on its handling of consumer complaints, including whether the bureau should change how it operates the database.

The CFPB under the Trump administration has in recent weeks asked for public feedback on a dozen issues as part of an effort to “ensure the bureau is fulfilling its proper and appropriate functions.” The effort covers key areas of the CFPB’s operations, from enforcement to rule-making, and could be a precursor to wholesale changes coming to the agency created under the Obama administration and long criticized by Republicans.

“Yes, this is a different bureau than it was under our predecessors,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “That is the nature of the business and elections do have consequences.”

Aaron Klein, fellow policy director at the Brookings Institute, responded to the news about the database, tweeting: “Thanks to @CFPB complaint data base, people are more informed when they make choices, and businesses have greater reputational incentives, which promotes a more efficient and effective free market. Eliminating #CFPB database is an attack on free markets.”

Recently, the CFPB issued its 12th and final request for information by asking about its handling of consumer complaints and inquiries.

HousingWire’s Kelsey Ramírez reported earlier this month that the bureau is seeking assistance in assessing its handling of consumer complaints and consumer inquiries and, consistent with law, considering whether changes to its processes would be appropriate. To date the bureau has received 1.5 million consumer complaints.

The bureau previously requested information on its consumer financial education, its guidance and implementation supportadopted regulations and new rulemaking authorities, its rulemaking process, the usefulness of its consumer complaint database, its supervision process, its enforcement process, its administrative adjudications and its civil investigative demands.

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