The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) rolled out another new consumer tool this morning, an on-line complaint database.  The database, currently in beta format, provides loan-level information on complaints logged with the Bureau by customers. The database is currently limited to complaints regarding credit cards but the Bureau intends to expand it to include mortgages, payday loans, and other consumer financial products.

There is no information that in any way identifies the consumer, but the company issuing the card is identified as well as the type of complaint (billing dispute, interest rate, collection practices, etc).  Other information includes the steps taken in resolving the complaint, tracking dates and the current status of the complaint. The accessibility of the information will allow consumers to track their complaints (with an identifying number) and permit the public to judge the actions of the bureau as well as assess the manner in which companies handle and resolve disputes.  

Credit card companies are expected to respond to consumer complaints within 15 days and to resolve all but the most complicated issues within 60 days.  The database indicates whether the dispute has been handled in a "timely" manner and whether the customer has accepted the card company's action.

The beta version of the site contains information only on complaints received after June 1 however the Bureau intends to backfill information once the full version of the program is on-line.

CFPB's website said, "No longer will consumer complaints only be known to the individual complainant, bank, regulator, and those in the public willing to pursue this information through the Freedom of Information Act. Instead this data-rich window into consumer financial issues will be widely available to everyone: developers, policymakers, journalists, academics, industry, and you. Our goal is to improve the transparency and efficiency of the credit card market to further empower American consumers."

ABA's Response:

Kenneth Clayton, ABA’s executive vice president of legislative affairs and chief counsel

"While our industry stands ready to work with the CFPB to resolve customer concerns, the Bureau’s plan to release unverified data is disappointing and could mislead consumers.  Publishing allegations is often different than publishing facts.  The Bureau itself acknowledges the complaints could be inaccurate, and in fact plans to disclaim their accuracy.*  This makes the proposed database a questionable - even misleading - resource and risks tarnishing the reputation of individual companies without substantiation.

"Complaint resolutions are best handled in a fair and unbiased manner between the parties involved.  Where regulators believe process problems exist, they have ample authority to correct them.  Publicizing allegations that may or may not have any basis in fact raises serious questions about the balanced review we expect from our government agencies.  It feeds the perception that the Bureau wishes to politicize the process rather than analyze the facts involved.

“The banking industry takes every complaint seriously and works every day to resolve customer issues.  We’re proud of the customer service we provide and the numbers speak for themselves.  Of the more than 383 million credit card accounts in the U.S., less than one-hundredth of one percent have submitted a complaint to the Bureau.  Customer satisfaction will always be our industry’s top priority.”