CFPB Announces ‘Enhancements’ to Consumer Complaint Database

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced on Wednesday its intention to enhance its previously controversial Consumer Complaint Database, which aims to provide additional information and context to new submissions.

“[CFPB] will continue the publication of consumer complaints, data fields and narrative descriptions through the Bureau’s Consumer Complaint Database while making several enhancements to the information available to users of the database,” the Bureau’s announcement said.

The described “enhancements” include modified disclaimers to provide better context for the published data; the integration of financial information and resources into the complaint process to provide more information to consumers considering the submission of a complaint; and information consumers will need if they wish to contact the financial company to address specific questions.

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The Bureau will also work to provide enhanced features for the database including “dynamic visualization tools on recent complaint data,” the announcement said.

In a statement acknowledging the database’s past controversies and the influx of over 26,000 comments received during a 2018 commenting period from a variety of different stakeholders, the enhanced database aims to continue publication while taking greater amounts of context-sensitive information into account according to CFPB Director Kathleen L. Kraninger.

“After carefully examining and considering all stakeholder and public input, we are announcing the continued publication of complaints with enhanced data and context that will benefit consumers and users of the database while addressing many of the concerns raised,” said Kraninger in the announcement. “The continued publication of the database, along with the enhancements, empowers consumers and informs the public.”

The enhancements come with updates to the CFPB website, which will include additional disclosures clarifying that complaints do not represent a “statistical sample” of consumers’ marketplace experiences, as well as pointing consumers toward sources of answers to common financial questions.

The changes to the database were praised by the American Bankers Association (ABA) in a statement following the announcement.

“Consumer feedback is important to all businesses, but only if that feedback is trustworthy and reliable,” said Virginia O’Neill, ABA’s EVP of regulatory compliance and policy. “In that spirit, we appreciate the CFPB’s efforts to provide greater context for the information in its Consumer Complaint Database. ABA has long expressed concern that the publication of unverified consumer complaints may mislead consumers by introducing unreliable information into the market. The addition of prominent disclosures indicating that the Bureau doesn’t verify allegations in complaint narratives and that complaints don’t necessarily represent all consumers’ experiences are appropriate and welcome.”

There had previously been speculation that the Bureau planned to take the database offline while under the leadership of Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, according to a 2018 story in the New York Times. This announcement indicates that the database is here to stay, albeit with some changes.

Some of the additional disclosures are live now, and can be seen at the CFPB.

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