CFPB’s public complaint database survives political attacks

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Chicago, IL—Kathleen Kraninger, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), announced today during Consumer Action’s annual National Consumer Empowerment Conference in Chicago that the CFPB’s public complaint database “is here to stay,” albeit with a few changes. Under her predecessor, Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, it seemed as if the database would be shuttered to the public because of complaints of its “unfairness” to financial services providers.

“This is a big win for consumers, and a pleasant surprise given some of the other anti-consumer initiatives afoot there,” said Linda Sherry, Consumer Action’s director of national priorities. “Our staff has worked tirelessly alongside our allies to protect this valuable consumer resource and to keep it open to the public. We are pleased that Ms. Kraninger chose our conference as the venue to announce this welcome news.”

Sherry said Consumer Action finds the complaint page tweaks generally acceptable, but noted that many, many consumers do not get satisfaction when complaining directly to companies or seeking answers online. “Some companies capitalize on consumer inertia and have developed tactics to delay addressing individual complaints. When you face this kind of situation, you need to leverage the power of the consumer bureau to ensure companies take your complaint seriously.”

Ms. Kraninger, who was a scheduled speaker at Consumer Action’s annual conference, said that the Bureau will continue the publication of consumer complaints, data fields and narrative descriptions. She noted several new “enhancements” to the information available to users of the database, including modified disclaimers that are intended to note that consumers’ complaints are from the consumer’s perspective and are not verified. The Bureau also plans to integrate CFPB financial information and resources into the complaint process to help address consumer questions. Additionally, next spring the bureau will begin adding enhanced tools to track complaint trends and help consumers to better understand the complaint data collected by the CFPB. (Click here for the CFPB press release.)

The database has value far beyond its face value. It is used by consumer watchdog groups, academic researchers, trial attorneys and the public to gauge how companies treat consumers and to assess trends of increases in consumer abuse and potentially illegal behavior by financial services firms, creditors and debt collectors, among other companies that consumers submit complaints about. Consumers can search the database before establishing new relationships with companies to ensure they avoid the same kinds of problems faced by their peers.

 

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