Strong support for CFPB’s plan to add ‘beef’ to complaint data

on Monday, 06 October 2014.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has proposed adding more details about consumer complaints to its public complaints database. Predictably, financial services institutions have cried foul, but consumer advocates and other civil society organizations have risen up en masse to publicize the benefits of the proposal.

The “narratives” only would be added to the CFPB public complaint database if consumers consent to making their remarks public. Consumer organizations, including Consumer Action, believe that knowing more details of a complaint would make the information far more valuable to consumers in helping them avoid companies with iffy practices and poor consumer response.

Ruth Susswein, who has worked for three years advocating for the narratives as chair of Americans for Financial Reform’s CFPB Complaint Process committee, said, “You can see dozens of complaints about a lender you are considering doing business with, but currently you have no way to assess the actual problems. If implemented, the proposal would help you to know if others’ concerns are similar to yours and what action, if any, a company has taken to resolve the problems.”

The CFPB plan would:  
  • Give consumers timely access to details that put the complaint in context and help prevent them from encountering similar problems;
  • Empower people to report complaints and alert others; and
  • Widen assistance to the CFPB in detecting harmful, unfair patterns and discriminatory practices.
Consumers would also be able to review companies’ specific complaint resolutions and evaluate their commitment to customer service. This also might encourage companies to demonstrate best practices and compete based on service excellence. Under the proposal, consumers would choose whether or not to include their complaints in the public database. Companies, too, would have the opportunity to add their perspective in a response alongside the original complaint.

The Bureau and stakeholders in favor of the proposal recognize that privacy is of utmost importance if the new procedure is put into play. The Bureau has proposed multi-step precautions to protect consumers’ privacy and keep personally identifiable information out of the public eye.

 

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