The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has launched a new service that publicly discloses complaints from credit card consumers, opening up what was previously a closed complaint process.
Under the old system, financial regulators would take complaints on credit cards directly to the issuing bank. Now, anyone can visit the CFPB site and find a list of complaints against various credit card issuers, once the relationship between the consumer and the issuer is verified. No identifying information on the credit card holder will be revealed (only the consumer’s zip code will be revealed), but individuals will be able to see the nature of the complaint and the issuing bank. They can check the Consumer Complaint Database for patterns and see if the problems they’re having match the problems in the data. It can be used as a knowledge tool for determining which credit card to select, and also as a way to pressure CFPB into investigations, when a pattern emerges. CFPB calls this a first for any financial regulator. And it turns them into kind of a Yelp for financial services.
CFPB has, in its first year of existence, received over 45,000 consumer complaints, 17,000 of them relating to credit cards. The credit card database is apparently a prelude to an eventual reveal of all complaint data.
I would be concerned that searching for real information would run into the “drinking from a fire hose” effect. Sometimes when you release all data, you end up in practical terms releasing no data. But they’re starting out small; in the beginning, only data from June 1 forward will be revealed, with more to come later when the database gets out of beta stage. Consumers can give feedback on the new database at this page.
As another part of this, CFPB revealed an early scorecard on its work:
The CFPB also released several examples of consumer complaints it helped resolve. Cordray cited the story of a blind, elderly Army veteran from Georgia who overpaid his mortgage lender by $30,000 because he could not find the paperwork proving he had paid off his loan. The CFPB helped the man get a refund.
“These complaints tell us personal stories of real pain, and they reinvigorate us to keep moving forward with the hard work we do every day,” Cordray said.
The agency said it has received 17,000 credit card complaints, primarily billing disputes. More than 2,000 of them featured monetary relief. The CFPB has gotten 19,000 mortgage complaints and 6,500 on checking accounts. Companies have responded to 89 percent of the complaints, the agency said.
It’s early in the game, but at this point, CFPB is at least creating a culture of helping consumers rather than serving the financial industry. And the financial industry is really pissed off about being named specifically in this complaint database. So that’s good.