The Washington Post

CFPB launches complaint database

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Tuesday will begin releasing detailed information on Americans’ complaints about their credit cards, part of a public database that the agency hopes will be both comprehensive and granular.

Complaints are the primary way that most consumers interact with the new agency. The CFPB said it has received more than 45,000 in the year since the bureau was launched. How it handles those complaints — and how much it makes public — has been a source of tension between the agency and financial industry groups.

Banks have opposed the inclusion of specific companies in the complaints, arguing that many could be unfounded or inaccurate. The database will also only include information for the large banks overseen by the CFPB.

“It’s an unlevel playing field,” said Richard Hunt, president of the Consumer Bankers Association, a trade group. “It appears to be a gotcha mentality when it didn’t have to be that way.”

The CFPB said it will only publish complaints after it has verified the consumer’s relationship with the company. The new database will include not only the name of the company involved, but also the nature of the complaint and the consumer’s Zip code. It will also report whether the firm responded in a timely manner, how the matter was resolved and any disputes. CFPB Director Richard Cordray said that the information represents the first time such detailed data would be available publicly.

“The information helps us, and it should be available to help others too,” he said.

The database will include credit card complaints that were made starting June 1, and the agency expects to add older ones by the end of the year. It also accepts complaints on mortgages, consumer loans, and checking and savings accounts, but those will not yet be part of the database.

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.

Ylan Q. Mui is a financial reporter at The Washington Post covering the Federal Reserve and the economy.
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