Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) became the first federal financial regulator to share individual consumer complaints with the public.  As a follow-up to the first annual report on consumer credit card complaints released on March 31, 2012, which we wrote about here, the CFPB launched the beta version of its Consumer Complaint Database (CCD), which can be accessed here.  The database lists, among other things, a brief description of the issue, identifies the financial institution, the date that the financial institution received the complaint and a brief standardized description of the response or resolution by the financial institution.  This database compiles the data collected by the CFPB’s Consumer Response team which began taking consumer complaints on credit card products on July 21, 2011.  Once a complaint is received the team screens the complaint to ensure it falls within CFPB’s jurisdiction and to ensure non-duplication of complaints. Then the complaint is sent to the financial institution for resolution on behalf of the consumer.  The CCD enables consumers to track the processing of their complaints, and now the public can as well.  In an effort to maintain consumer confidentiality, the information in the CCD has been stripped of all personally identifiable information and the ‘Issues’ and financial institution ‘Response’ fields have been standardized.  Currently the CCD has only been populated with consumer credit card complaints from June 1, 2012 but the CFPB plans to add retroactive data when the CCD graduates from beta status later this summer.

Financial institutions should be aware that while an individual listing of thousands of complaints may not seem user-friendly or perhaps as useful to the average consumer at first glance, the CCD includes aggregation, visualization and filtering capabilities.  These capabilities enable a potential consumer to determine, for instance, the most pervasive complaints for a particular financial institution or perhaps to determine that financial institution’s track record for resolving consumer complaints. Further, the CFPB is seeking comment to determine whether it should populate the database with complaints for other bank products and services.  Comments are due by July 19, 2012 and more information about submission of comments can be found here.