Report Makes Case to Keep CFPB Complaint Database Open to Public

The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection should continue to allow the public to access its consumer complaint database because it would ensure that everyone is held accountable, from the financial services organizations regulated by the Bureau to the Bureau itself, according to a new report issued by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).

The complaint database has been available to the public since its inception, but Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the CFPB, has come out and said there is nothing that requires the database to be accessible by anyone and everyone.

Access to the database should remain open to anyone because doing so gives consumers access to information they can use when shopping for financial services products, gives academics and advocacy groups access to data to help consumers, holds financial services organizations accountable, and holds the CFPB accountable, the report concluded.

What is interesting is that the reasons cited in the report to keep the complaint information public are virtually the same reasons why Mulvaney wants to take them private. The report argues that the complaint database acts as a tool for consumers who are shopping for financial services products. Much as in the same way a consumer can read reviews of a product on Amazon.com before deciding to buy, the CFPB’s database provides similar reviews — albeit negative — of financial services organizations. But, as Mulvaney noted when mentioning that the database does not have to be available to the public, he commented that there is nothing that legally requires him to maintain what he described as a “Yelp” for financial services products. Yelp, to those who don’t know it, is a review site for restaurants.

Members of the financial services industry, including ACA International, have been critical of the complaint database because it only provides one side of a story — the consumers’ — and often fails to include any context of the issue being complained about.

 

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