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CFPB To Keep Complaint Database Open to Public, But With Some Changes

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced yesterday that it will continue to publish its database of consumer complaints, but announced that it will make some changes to how the data is presented, which appeared to keep both consumer advocates and participants in the credit and collection industry happy.

Speaking at the Consumer Empowerment Conference yesterday outside of Chicago, Kathy Kraninger, the director of the CFPB, said that the “database is here to stay.” Acknowledging that both consumer advocates and industry participants had legitimate arguments about the database, Kraninger said the changes the CFPB is making to the complaints database will do “so much more to improve the user experience.”

Among the changes the CFPB is going to make to the database are:

  • More prominently display disclosures making it clear that the Consumer Complaint Database is not a statistical sample of consumers’ experiences in the marketplace; 
  • Highlighting the availability of answers to common financial questions for consumers to help inform them before they submit a complaint; and
  • Highlighting consumers ability to contact the financial company directly to get answers to their specific questions.

As well, along with continuing to publish everything it is currently publishing, the CFPB announced it is making changes to the database, including:

  • Building and launching dynamic visualization tools including geospatial and trend views based on recent complaint data to help users of the database understand current and recent marketplace conditions;
  • Emphasizing features for aggregation and analysis while continuing to make all the underlying data available for analysis; 
  • Exploring expansion of a company’s ability to respond publically to individual complaints listed in the database; and 
  • Continuing to explore ways to put the complaint data in context of other data, such as by incorporating product or service market share and company size.

There had been talk when Mick Mulvaney was acting director of the CFPB that the agency would no longer make the database available to the public. Mulvaney had gone as far as to compare the database to the financial services industry’s version of Yelp. The CFPB had sought opinions from the public about what to do with the database and received more than 26,000 comments, many of them from consumer advocates who did not want to lose access to the database. But the financial services industry has long complained that the database paints an inaccurate picture of the institutions and companies being complained about.

“The CFPB’s thoughtful attention to improving the complaint process will help consumers be more informed about their options, and how to take appropriate steps for resolving inquiries, as opposed to meritless complaints,” said Mark Neeb, the CEO of ACA International. “ACA has long maintained the complaint data is flawed and a more accurate reporting of complaints would better serve both consumers and the industry. The CFPB’s actions today are step in the right direction to provide more transparency and accuracy to the process, and we urge it to move forward with putting complaint data in context of other data, such as by incorporating product or service market share and company size.”

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