On March 19, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began letting consumers make their stories about alleged mistreatment by banks, credit card companies and other financial services firms publicly available through the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database.
This move will help lift the veil from consumer transactions with banks, payday lenders, and other financial companies. It’s a step that we and our colleagues at U.S. PIRG Education Fund have been recommending for the last two years in our report series analyzing CFPB complaint data on credit card companies, debt collectors, banks, private loans, and credit bureaus.
Those reports provided a 30,000-foot view of the problems consumers were experiencing in the financial services marketplace – something that would have been impossible without the CFPB database, which was first made public in 2011. But the CFPB data shed only a bit of light on exactly how consumers were being harmed. Now, public consumer narratives will let us know, in the consumers’ own words, what actually transpired in those cases.
These consumer narratives, which will be added to the public database in the fall, will go beyond helping researchers. Consumers will be able to look through stories in the Consumer Complaint Database to help make informed decisions about where to bank or take out loans; and the narratives may encourage some financial companies to increase their focus on customer service (companies will also have the opportunity to post responses to consumer complaints).
Allowing consumers to post their complaint narratives online is just the latest example of the CFPB’s leadership in protecting Americans from unscrupulous financial services firms. By continuing to expand and improve its Consumer Complaint Database, the CFPB can give even more Americans a louder voice when it comes to the protection of their financial interests.