CFPB Proposal: Include Consumer Narrative in Complaint Database (July 17, 2014)
The CFPB wants to expand its Consumer Complaint Database to enable consumers to provide a narrative with their complaints about financial services. Consumer narratives, according to the CFPB, would provide context to complaints. “These narrative descriptions form the heart and soul of the complaint,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said yesterday during a field hearing in El Paso, Texas. “[The narratives] include all the details, the nuances and the rest of the story that really explain the problem just as [the consumers] understand it.”
Currently, the complaint database includes basic, anonymous information, including date of submission, the consumer’s ZIP code, the offending company’s name, the product type, the consumer’s issue and the company’s response. The CFPB began accepting complaints in July 2011. Since then, the bureau says it has handled more than 400,000 complaints.
Some industry associations are concerned about the proposal. “It is the role of the CFPB as the traffic cop to distinguish violations of law from unfounded complaints,” Richard Hunt, president and CEO, Consumer Bankers Association, said in a statement. “Instead, they want to let others figure it out from one-sided and unverified narrative information. This action will ultimately add to consumer confusion, harm industry reputations, and undermine any hope the CFPB may have to be viewed as a fair and honest broker.”
The CFPB addresses such concerns, stating that the “proposed policy provides for the public release of the company’s response, side-by-side and scrubbed of any personal information, to the consumer’s complaint. This process will assure that, to the extent there are factual disputes, both sides of the dispute can be made public.”
Terry Maher, partner at Baird Holm LLP and general counsel to the NBPCA, however, is unsure companies will be able to respond to the narratives within the bureau’s limited timeframe. “Fifteen days is a very short period in which to investigate and resolve complaints,” he tells Paybefore. “Now, you’re adding the potential need to craft a narrative response as well as have that response vetted to make sure it isn’t violating any consumer privacy obligations.”
Comments on the CFPB’s proposal are due 30 days from publication in the Federal Register and must be identified by Docket No. CFPB-2014-0016. Submit comments via http://www.regulations.gov; by mail to: Monica Jackson, Office of the Executive Secretary, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 1700 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20552; or by hand delivery to Monica Jackson, Office of the Executive Secretary, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 1275 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002.