On May 20, California’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI or Department) announced that it had filed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with the Office of Administrative Law, inviting public comments on the proposed rulemaking. The purpose of the proposed regulations is to implement, interpret, clarify, and make specific, certain sections of the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL) that impose requirements on covered companies to respond to consumer complaints and report information about those complaints and responses to the DFPI.
Specifically, the DFPI is proposing to make explicit what it means to provide a timely response to consumers and to the Department regarding complaints against or inquiries concerning a covered person and received by the covered person. Covered persons are expected to have appropriate procedures to review, investigate, respond to, track, and report consumer complaints and inquiries. Notably, these proposed procedures apply to complaints received directly by a company — they are not limited to complaints submitted to the DFPI.
For each complaint, covered persons must provide the complainant with a written acknowledgement of receipt. Under the proposed rules, the written acknowledgement of receipt shall advise that the complaint has been received and shall include the date of receipt, a unique tracking number to identify the complaint in subsequent communications, and the telephone number and email address that can be used to contact the appropriate representatives of the covered person who have been designated to handle the complaint. The timing and manner of providing this acknowledgment would vary depending on the channel through which the complaint was received:
Emailed complaints or complaints received via the internet. Covered persons would be required to provide the complainant, within one calendar day after receiving the complaint, an email confirming that the electronic submission of the complaint was successful and, within five calendar days after receiving the complaint, an email message with the written acknowledgement of receipt. Both email messages would be required to be sent from the email address provided to the complainant, and they may be combined if provided within one calendar day after receiving the complaint.
Complaints received via postal mail. The proposed rules would require that covered persons provide the written acknowledgement of receipt via postal mail within seven calendar days of receiving the complaint.
Complaints received via telephone. Under the proposed rules, covered persons would orally provide the complainant with a unique tracking number to identify the complaint and, within seven calendar days of receiving the complaint, provide via postal mail a written acknowledgement of receipt.
The proposed rule would allow written acknowledgements to be combined with the issuance of a final decision if the final decision is issued within the required time period for the acknowledgement.
Covered persons would also be required to maintain a written record of each complaint for at least five years from the time the complaint was initially filed. The written record mandated by the proposed rules is fairly extensive and includes:
- A unique tracking number.
- The name, phone, address, and email address (if provided).
- The name of the financial service or product involved.
- The name of the covered person or third party identified as the subject of the complaint.
- For oral complaints, the name of the representative who documented the complaint.
- The date the complaint was received.
- The date the covered person provided the acknowledgement of receipt.
- The dates of any investigation.
- The dates of all responses to the complaint.
- The nature and details of the complaints.
- If no investigation was performed, the names of all persons who decided not to investigate, and the reason why the investigation was not needed.
- The results of any investigation.
- Any corrective action.
- A copy of (or an electronic link to) all contracts, correspondence, and other relevant information upon which the covered person relied to reach his or her final decision.
- A copy of all written responses and summaries of all oral responses, including an explanation of the final decision regarding the complaint.
In addition, covered persons would be required to submit to the Department a quarterly complaint report, including the total number of complaints received, total number of complaints for which a final decision was issued (broken out by “within 15 calendar days,” “between sixteen and sixty calendar days,” and “more than 60 calendar days), which shall be made available to the public. The report would be required to include information regarding all complaints received by the covered person, including complaints forwarded by the Department. Under the proposed rules, the report should be prepared for the quarters ending March 31, June 30, September 30, and December 31 of each calendar year, verified by an officer authorized to act on behalf of the covered person, and filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Division no later than 30 calendar days after the end of each quarter.
The comment period on the proposed rules is open until July 5.