The Consumer Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association have submitted a comment letter setting forth their opposition to the CFPB’s proposed addition of a survey to the current complaint intake form.

In a notice published in the Federal Register in August 2016, the CFPB proposed to add a survey that consumers may choose to respond to, providing their feedback on the company’s response to their complaint.  Consumers would be able to opt-in and provide this feedback publicly, much the way they can with their complaint narrative.  The proposed survey would replace the existing “dispute” function that currently allows consumers to indicate their dissatisfaction with a company’s response.  Instead, a consumer will have the option to score the company’s response from 1 to 5 and provide a narrative description of the rationale for the number he or she selected.

In their comment letter, the trade groups assert that consumers will not benefit from a highly subjective rating system. They describe the proposed survey as subjective in the following two ways:

  • The pool of customers who take the time to respond will likely be those who are most dissatisfied with the company’s handling of their complaint. Customers who submit a complaint are dissatisfied already with the company, and the associations think it is unlikely that the company’s response will meaningfully alter their opinion of the company or improve the customer’s perception from the circumstances contributing to the complaint. As a result, any additional feedback the consumer provides likely will be based on the underlying complaint, and not on the company’s efforts to resolve that complaint.
  • No criteria have been established to guide a consumer in making a selection under the proposed survey’s one-to-five scale. Without a description of the circumstances under which a particular value should be given, the ratings will reflect the idiosyncrasies of customers, not an accurate reflection of the company’s response to complaints it received. Therefore, the aggregate results of these ratings will provide little, if any, benefit to consumers.

The trade groups also assert that the option for a consumer to provide a narrative description of the rationale for the rating he or she selected will perpetuate the broader problems of potential reputational harm and misleading of consumers already created by the inclusion of unverified narratives in the complaint database.  They urge the CFPB to consider several specific issues, such as whether a subjective rating of certain institutions will actually help consumers and whether consumers will expect an additional company response after completing the survey.

More generally, the trade groups observe that the CFPB has never conducted a study to show how the complaints are informing their work or if the information is providing benefit to consumers.  They urge the CFPB to conduct a cost benefit analysis evaluating customer experience to date with the database’s overall costs to taxpayers and companies, and risks to customer privacy, and whether the benefit to consumers, if shown, outweighs those costs.  Specifically, they ask the CFPB to look at whether consumers use the database as a shopping tool or in any other way other than lodging a complaint and whether consumers have received more prompt feedback or more favorable resolution to their complaints than had they submitted the complaints directly to the financial institution.

The trade groups also comment that the proposed survey continues the CFPB’s trend of skirting the formal rulemaking process and urge the CFPB not to proceed further with the proposal unless it does so through a formal Administrative Procedure Act rulemaking process, rather than as an information collection request under a Paperwork Reduction Act notice.