The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has expanded its
public Consumer Complaint Database to include complaints about mortgages, bank
deposit products and services, student loans, and other consumer loans (which
category includes complaints about auto loans and leases). The database was
previously limited to credit card complaints.
The CFPB uses complaint data to establish supervision,
enforcement, and market monitoring priorities. It also shares complaint data
with the Consumer Sentinel Network, an online database of consumer complaints
maintained by the Federal Trade Commission that can be accessed by federal,
state, and local law enforcement agencies. The database expansion means that
the added complaints will now also be available to plaintiffs' lawyers who can
mine the data for potential litigation targets. Ballard Spahr will be
conducting a webinar on the expansion's implications for the consumer financial
services industry; details will be provided in the near future.
Effective March 28, 2013, the CFPB's action expands the
database from about 19,000 complaints to more than 90,000. A breakdown issued by the CFPB provides statistics about the
complaints now in the database (such as the number of complaints by product and
sub-product), and details on the 12 fields of complaint information disclosed
by the database.
In addition to complaints about the products covered by
the expanded database, the CFPB takes complaints about credit reporting through
its Consumer Response operations. In its press release announcing the database expansion, the CFPB
indicated that it plans to include credit reporting complaints in the database
in the near future and, when it begins taking complaints about other financial
products and services, to add them to the database eventually. That means
complaints about debt collection and payday loans, which the CFPB is expected
to begin taking in 2013, also will be included.
In addition, the CFPB has issued a final Disclosure of Consumer Complaint Data Policy Statement, a Consumer Response Annual Report, and a Snapshot of Complaints Received. Highlights are summarized
The Policy Statement sets forth the conditions under
which a complaint will be included in the database. Those conditions do not
require the CFPB to validate a complaint's factual allegations (which the
industry has strongly criticized). They only require that the complaint not
duplicate another CFPB complaint from the same consumer, not be a whistleblower
complaint, involve a consumer product or service within the CFPB's
jurisdiction, and be submitted by a consumer "with an authenticated commercial
relationship with the identified company." The last condition is typically
satisfied by verifying an account number provided by the consumer.
The Policy Statement lists the complaint information
fields that will be uploaded to the database and describes the CFPB's process
and timelines for including data about a given complaint. It also describes the
database's functionality and indicates that although consumer and company
response narratives are not currently included, the CFPB will be studying how
it might include those narratives in a way that addresses privacy and other
Snapshot and Annual Report
The Snapshot analyzes complaints received by the CFPB
from July 21, 2011, through February 28, 2013, while the Annual Report only
covers complaints received in 2012. Both reports indicate the most common types
of complaints for each product and how complaints have been handled. Except for
credit reporting complaints, they provide the median amount of monetary relief
paid to consumers.
Through February 28, 2013, the CFPB received about
131,300 complaints, with about 91,000 of them received in 2012. Based on the
CFPB's breakdown of the number of complaints received in each category, credit
card and mortgage complaints accounted for 70 percent of all 2012 complaints
and 72 percent of all complaints received through February 28, 2013
(approximately 94,300 complaints).
The Snapshot indicates that about 48 percent of the
complaints received by the CFPB through February 28, 2013, were submitted via
the CFPB's website, 9 percent via telephone calls, 32 percent via referrals
from other agencies and regulators, and the balance via mail, e-mail or fax.
The three most common credit card complaints involved billing disputes (15
percent), APR or interest rate (10 percent), and identity
theft/fraud/embezzlement (8 percent). Sixty-one percent of the mortgage
complaints involved problems when a consumer is unable to pay (loan
modification, collection, or foreclosure) and 22 percent involved making
payments (servicing, payments, or escrow).
The Annual Report makes clear that a company's failure to
provide a timely response or a consumer's dispute of a company's response could
lead to further CFPB review and investigation. The CFPB states that, as a
result of such investigations, complaints have been referred by Consumer Response
to "colleagues in the CFPB's Division of Supervision, Enforcement, and Fair
Lending & Equal Opportunity for further action."
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