Feds Determine Release of Financial Complaint Data

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released guidance on how it plans to determine what parts of financial consumer complaints it will disclose publicly without information that personally identifies the consumer.
     The CFPB’s Office of Consumer Response has a system where consumers can lodge complaints against financial institutions, and proposed an updated policy statement regarding its disclosure rules.
     The CFPB received a number of comments about the public database of complaints that it addressed in a final policy statement Wednesday.
     “Industry commenters generally opposed the inclusion of additional complaint data in the public database, and reiterated opposition to the database itself,” the CFPB wrote.
     “Although they endorsed the intended goals of the public database, many industry commenters asserted that the database would confuse consumers and unfairly damage the reputation of companies.”
     Other commenters said the CFPB lacks legal authority to disclose complaints from individuals.
     Consumer groups and privacy groups generally supported the database and said it “empowers consumers to better understand and detect instances of unfair and deceptive practices,” according to the CFPB’s s final policy statement.
     The CFPB addressed some of the comments from industry groups in its policy statement.
     “The bureau believes that industry comments fail to acknowledge the system controls that are in place to verify that a complaint is from an actual customer of the company and that the company is properly identified.
     “If a consumer contacts the bureau solely with an inquiry, it will not be recorded as a complaint and therefore not published in the database. Companies have the ability to notify the bureau if they cannot take action because the complaint is not related to the company.”
     Complaints that will be accepted into the database cannot come from a consumer that has a commercial relationship with the company and cannot be a whistleblower complaint, among other things.
     Consumers can submit complaints about credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts and student loans.
     The CFPB does not plan to disclose the amount of money consumers say they lost and said consumers prefer to give narrative descriptions.
     The public database will not show consumers’ names, account numbers, or address information other than a zip code.
     “At least until it can conduct sufficient further study and install satisfactory controls, the bureau will not post to the public database the consumer’s narrative description of ‘what happened,’ his or her description of a ‘fair resolution,’ or his or her reason for disputing the company’s response, if applicable,” the CFPB wrote.

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