On July 23, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published in the Federal Register a proposed policy statement that is expected to expand the type of data disclosed in its consumer complaint database to include unstructured consumer complaint narrative data.  The CFPB extended the comment period to September 22 to permit additional time for the submission of additional comments.  The CFPB currently discloses certain complaint data it receives regarding consumer financial products and services via its web-based consumer complaint database.  The CFPB proposed expanding the disclosures on the database to include unstructured narratives for which opt-in consumer consent had been obtained.  By the comment deadline, the CFPB received over 125 comments on its proposal.

On September 22, the American Bankers Association submitted its comments in a thirty-page letter to the CFPB.  The ABA opposes the database and the proposed expansion to include narrative data because “it will not enable better, more accurately informed consumers.”  In its letter, the ABA reiterated its position that there is no authority under the Dodd-Frank Act for a public consumer complaint database.  The ABA also contends that the decision to establish the database and the proposal to publish consumer complaint narratives cannot skip implementation by Administrative Procedures Act rulemaking.

The ABA criticized the narrative proposal because it will “allow self-selecting consumers to share only their negative, unverified complaints,” while also noting that the CFPB has not “proposed any measures to promote the objectivity, reliability, or utility of the narratives it will publish.”  Also, the ABA is concerned that the proposal “directly contravenes [the CFPB’s] mission of policing the integrity of marketplace information by transforming the Bureau itself into a platform for unsubstantiated rants or inaccurate representations [of] operative facts—especially when the Bureau knows such statements to be false or misleading.”  The ABA also argues that the “proposal will significantly increase the costs of responding to consumer complaints” because it anticipates banks will have to draft “a distinct public response that does not expose personal confidential information, does not discuss specific details about an individual’s interaction with the bank, and does not reference any bank documents.”  The ABA is concerned that drafting two responses will require additional time, diverting resources from the important work of resolving individual complaints and responding to consumer inquiries.”

The ABA was not alone in its opposition to the narrative proposal.  The Mortgage Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, and other financial services industry trade groups voiced their opposition to the proposal by submitting comments to the CFPB.

We will continue to monitor this proposal from the CFPB and provide updates on developments related to this proposed policy.