As of today, consumer narratives are publicly available on the CFPB’s consumer complaint database. In its press release, the CFPB stated that the database now includes “for the first time over 7,700 consumer accounts of problems they are facing with financial companies concerning mortgages, bank accounts, credit cards, debt collection, and more.”
In March 2015, despite widespread industry criticism, the CFPB announced that it had decided to adopt its plans to publicly disclose the narratives. According to a new CFPB blog post about the availability of the narratives, since the CFPB’s complaint form began advising consumers of their right to opt-in to disclosure of their narratives, approximately 59 percent of consumers submitting complaints through the CFPB’s website have opted-in.
The CFPB’s press release also describes various enhancements to the database accompanying the disclosure of the narratives. According to the press release, database users can now do the following:
- Search consumer narratives for product names or features such as the brand name of a credit card or a mortgage feature.
- Search for terms in consumer descriptions of what happened (with the CFPB giving as examples “lost paperwork,” “foreclosure scam,” or “robo-signing”).
- Sort complaints by state and zip code.
The CFPB’s announcement regarding the narratives was accompanied by the issuance of a Request for Information seeking “best practices for normalizing relevant data in the Database.” The RFI describes “normalization” as the process of “making raw complaint data more meaningful by supplementing that data with a context more useful for consumers and other market participants,” such as by providing information on the size of a credit card issuer’s business as compared to others. The RFI contains a series of questions to which the CFPB is specifically interested in receiving responses. In the RFI, the CFPB states that it does not anticipate publishing a proposed policy statement on the subject of the RFI. Responses will be due on or before 60 days after the RFI’s publication in the Federal Register.