The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has announced a new proposal that will allow consumers the option to share a narrative of “what happened” in the CFPB’s public-facing Consumer Complaint Database.  According to the CFPB, this new feature would “empower consumers to publicly voice their complaints about consumer financial products and services” and “provide important context to the complaint, help detect specific trends in the market, aid consumer decision-making, and drive improved consumer service.”

A copy of the proposed policy can be found here.

In July 2011, the CFPB started accepting complaints against the entities it regulates regarding mortgages, credit cards, bank accounts, debt collection, private student loans, consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers, and payday loans.  The CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database is the nation’s largest public collection of consumer financial complaints, currently totaling more than 400,000.  According to the Bureau, it includes basic, anonymous, individual-level information about the complaints received, including the date of submission, the consumer’s ZIP code, the relevant company, the product type, the issue the consumer is complaining about, and the company’s response.

In response to the consumer narratives, companies would be given the opportunity to post a written response that would appear next to the consumer’s story.  In most cases, this response would appear at the same time as the consumer’s narrative so that reviewers could see both sides concurrently.  Both the narratives and responses would be scrubbed to prevent personal account information from being shared online.  The CFPB believes that the narrative feature will “greatly enhance the utility of the database, a platform designed to provide consumers with valuable information needed to make better financial choices for themselves and their families.”

“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.”