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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

CFPB Proposal Would Create Yelp-like System for Financial Services

July 31, 2014

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has proposed a new policy that would allow consumers to publicly voice their complaints about consumer financial products and services.

When consumers submit a complaint to the CFPB, they would have the option to share their account of what happened in the CFPB’s public-facing Consumer Complaint Database.

The bureau believes that publishing consumer narratives would provide important context to the complaint, help the public detect specific trends in the market, aid consumer decision-making and drive improved consumer service. The CFPB unveiled the proposed policy during a field hearing July 17 in Texas. The CFPB is accepting comments regarding the proposed policy within 30 days after date of publication in the Federal Register. Instructions on where to send comments is included in the proposal.

“The consumer experience shared in the narrative is the heart and soul of the complaint,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “By publicly voicing their complaint, consumers can stand up for themselves and others who have experienced the same problem. There is power in their stories, and that power can be put in service to strengthen the foundation for consumers, responsible providers, and our economy as a whole.”

Resolving consumer complaints is the seventh pillar of ALTA’s “Title Insurance and Settlement Company Best Practices,” which says a process for receiving and addressing consumer complaints helps ensure reported instances of poor service or non-compliance do not go undiscovered. Click here to watch a webinar ALTA hosted on how to enhance consumer care and resolving customer complaints.

This is important as the CFPB is focused on enhancing the consumer experience and expects companies to have a process in place to handle and resolve complaints. The CFPB issued a bulletin in June 2013 regarding responsible business conduct and provides insight into the Bureau’s mission and further supports the importance of resolving consumer complaints. The bulletin encourages “activity that has concrete and substantial benefits for consumers and contributes significantly to the success of the Bureau’s mission.”

The CFPB began accepting complaints in July 2011. It currently accepts complaints on many consumer financial products, including credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers, debt collection and payday loans.

When consumers submit a complaint to the Bureau, they fill in information such as who they are, who the complaint is against, and when it occurred. They are also given a text box to describe what happened and can attach documents to the complaint. The Bureau forwards the complaint to the company, allows the company to respond, gives the consumer a tracking number, and keeps the consumer updated on its status. To date, the Bureau has handled more than 400,000 complaints.

To protect consumers’ private information, the CFPB said consumers must check a consent box when submitting a complaint. Complaints also will be scrubbed of information such as names, telephone numbers, account numbers, Social Security numbers and other direct identifiers.

According to the CFPB’s announcement, companies will be given the opportunity to post a written response that would appear next to the consumer’s complaint. In most cases, this response would appear at the same time as the consumer’s narrative so that reviewers can see both sides concurrently. This response would also be scrubbed of personal information.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the CFPB, established the handling of consumer complaints as an integral part of the CFPB’s work. The CFPB has released a snapshot overview of complaints handled since the Bureau opened on July 21, 2011 that includes aggregate data and analysis.

What do you think about the CFPB's proposal to publicize consumer complaints? Send your comments to

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