The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has announced an initiative to allow consumers to contribute a public “narrative of their own experiences” when posting to the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database. We discussed the creation of this narrative section in our July 18 blog titled “CFPB Adds Narrative to Complaint Database.” Recently, Richard Cordray, Director of the CFPB, issued prepared remarks that provide insight into the CFPB’s thinking in making these narrative complaints public.
According to Cordray, allowing consumers to provide a narrative will provide “vital information about why the consumer believes they were harmed, and how the problem has affected the consumer’s life.” This will provide the CFPB with a better understanding of the significance of the consumer’s complaint.
Cordray also indicated that the public nature of the narrative would allow consumers, consumer groups, and companies to “spot trends and problems.” According to Cordray, “reviewers would be able to see patterns of abuse and identify issues that may not have been uncovered before.” Lastly, Cordray noted that the narratives would “help consumers and consumer groups peruse the database to make informed decisions.” Effectively, Cordray believes that the potential for public negative narratives regarding a company or product will “encourage companies to improve the overall quality of their products.”
Cordray’s remarks indicate that the public narrative aspect of the Consumer Complaint Database will be used to accomplish CFPB policy goals as opposed to merely providing a forum for the airing of grievances on a larger scale. Not only does the CFPB hope that public narratives regarding consumer complaints will force companies to “address potential shortcomings,” but the CFPB will use these public complaints to “identify and prioritize problems” deserving of CFPB attention. Based on Cordray’s comments, it may be possible in the future for businesses to anticipate shifts in CFPB focus by reviewing the frequency and intensity of the narratives in the Consumer Complaint Database.