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Coalition of State Attorneys General Urge CFPB To Maintain Public Consumer Complaint Database

On June 4th, a coalition of fourteen (14) state attorneys general responded to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (“CFPB”) request for comments and information regarding its public reporting practices of consumer complaint information, urging the CFPB to maintain the complaint database.  The CFPB had issued a Request For Information (“RFI”) in the Federal Register to assist it in assessing potential changes that can be implemented.  The 90 day comment period closed on Monday.

In remarks to the American Bankers Association in April, CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney was critical of the complaint database, describing it as “a Yelp for financial services” and questioning whether it was required by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.

In creating the CFPB, one of the main missions of the bureau as set forth in Dodd-Franks is “collecting, investigating and responding to consumer complaints. “   As implemented, these consumer complaints may be submitted through the CFPB’s website and are then made available in a publicly accessible, searchable database after the company responds or 15 days, whichever comes first.   Some financial institutions have expressed concern that the CFPB allows complaints to be made anonymously and without full verification.  The CFPB does not verify all of the facts within the complaint, but does take steps to confirm that there is a commercial relationship between the complainant and the company.   The CFPB has received more than 1.4 million complaints since the database was rolled out in July 2011, the vast majority of which are debt collection, mortgage, and credit or consumer reporting complaints.

Amongst the topics identified for feedback in the RFI are the usefulness of the information for various stakeholders, whether the agency should continue to publish the names of companies that are the subject of each complaint, and the appropriate level of data and context for each complaint.  In their letter to the CFPB, the state Attorneys General, including those from New York and California, argued that the complaint database assists them in their efforts in identifying patterns of misconduct, brings transparency, and honors the letter and spirit of the law. 

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