CFPB Publishes Credit Card Complaint Database over Industry Objections

American Banker, June 20, 2012 | Go to article overview

CFPB Publishes Credit Card Complaint Database over Industry Objections


Byline: Kate Davidson

WASHINGTON a The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will begin publishing credit card complaints today in a searchable database, allowing the public for the first time to scrutinize the way individual banks handle complaints.

Industry groups have warned that consumer complaints are subjective, unverified and irrelevant, and said identifying the banks involved serves no public policy, but could significantly harm their reputation. Some even suggested the bureau doesn't have the legal authority to release such detailed data.

But agency officials defended the release of the information, which Director Richard Cordray said will be easily searchable and widely available to consumers.

"We believe the disclosure of this data not only serves the public interest, but promotes the advancement of the free market system," Cordray said on a conference call with reporters Monday. "Anyone with access to the Web will be able to review and analyze the information and draw their own conclusions."

The agency also released a snapshot Monday of the complaints it has gathered a more than 45,000 since July 21, 2011 a and it published a notice seeking comment on adding other types of complaints to the database, which will go live at 8 a.m.

CFPB began taking credit card complaints as soon as it became an independent agency, and added mortgage complaints in December. In March, it began accepting complaints for other bank products and services, including private student loans, auto loans and other consumer loans.

Almost immediately, Cordray said, people started requesting information about those complaints, and the bureau sought feedback in December on how that data should be released.

In response to the feedback, CFPB launched a beta version of the database Tuesday morning that includes complaints it has received since June 1. While there have only been about 100 complaints processed since then, the agency intends to provide additional retroactive data by the end of the year, when the site will lose its "beta" tag and go live.

Before a complaint is added to the database, the bank named in the complaint has to verify that there is indeed a commercial relationship with the consumer. One of the challenges for CFPB staff is that consumers sometimes don't know the exact name of the bank or card issuer, one senior CFPB official said.

Agency staff will also screen complaints to ensure the bank is within the CFPB's jurisdiction a complaints for banks with less than $10 billion of assets will be forwarded to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, for example a and that the complaint has not been submitted more than once.

Each entry includes certain data about the individual complaint, including the type of complaint, date of submission, the consumer's zip code and the company that the complaint concerns. …

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