On October 11, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) issued an advisory opinion regarding § 1034(c) of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA), which requires large banks and credit unions to comply in a timely manner with consumer requests for information concerning their accounts. This advisory opinion follows a June 2022 request for information where the CFPB asked for public input on customer service obstacles encountered when interacting with large financial institutions. According to the CFPB, this initiative is in response to large financial institutions moving away from “relationship banking.”

As background, § 1034(c) requires that, subject to certain listed exceptions, large banks and credit unions “shall, in a timely manner, comply with a consumer request for information in the control or possession of [a large bank or credit union] concerning the consumer financial product or service that the consumer obtained from [the large bank or credit union], including supporting written documentation, concerning the account of the consumer.” Consumer financial products or services includes deposit and savings accounts, mortgage loans and credit cards, and loan servicing.

According to the CFPB, requiring a consumer to pay a fee to request account information is likely to unreasonably impede consumers’ ability to exercise the right granted by § 1034(c), and, subject to limited exceptions, violate the provision. Other examples of conditions or obstacles that may frustrate consumers’ ability to exercise their rights under the provision included excessively long wait times to interact with a customer service representative, requiring consumers to submit the same request multiple times, requiring consumers to interact with a chatbot that does not understand or adequately respond to consumers’ requests, or directing consumers to obtain information that the institution possesses from a third party instead.

As for what the CFPB will consider a timely response under § 1034(c), the Bureau advised that will be a fact specific determination but will be informed by other federal laws. For example, Regulation X requires mortgage servicers to respond to certain information requests within specific time periods. A large bank or credit union that is subject to Regulation X and that exceeded Regulation X’s timing requirements for an information request likely would not be responding “in a timely manner” for purposes of § 1034(c).

As for what constitutes an accurate and complete response, the CFPB indicated that it expects financial institutions to provide consumers with the information they request to the extent it is in their control or possession. For example, if a consumer asked for information about all of the transactions with a given merchant since the account was opened, and the institution possesses transaction information going back seven years, but only provides information going back one year, that would likely be deemed a violation of the provision. And example of an inaccurate response would be if a consumer asked for the amount of a particular fee and the institution provided the wrong amount for that fee.

According to the concurrently issued press release, the CFPB does not intend to issue fines for potential violations of § 1034(c) that occur prior to February 1, 2024.