In remarks earlier this week at an American Bankers Association conference, CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney is reported to have strongly criticized the CFPB’s policy of publicly disclosing consumer complaint information and suggested that the policy is likely to be discontinued.
As initially adopted, the CFPB’s policy statement on the disclosure of consumer complaints limited the complaint data fields the CFPB would publicly disclose in its database to non-narrative fields such as the name of the company that is the subject of the complaint, the date the complaint was submitted to the CFPB and the date it was submitted to the company, the consumer’s zip code, the product type, the issue the consumer is complaining about by category, and whether or not the company provided relief. In 2015, the CFPB changed the policy statement to include consumer complaint narratives in the complaint information it would publicly disclose in its database.
From the time the CFPB first announced its plan to publicly disclose complaint data, we expressed concerns about disclosing unverified data. The CFPB’s decision to disclose consumer narratives only exacerbated those concerns. We found the CFPB’s action to be inconsistent with its claim of being a data-driven agency, observing that the CFPB would be publishing anecdotes much in the same way as an Internet gripe site.
Acting Director Mulvaney appears to have echoed our concerns in his remarks to the ABA conference, where he is reported to have said that while the CFPB will maintain the consumer complaint database as required by Dodd-Frank, he did not see any legal requirement for the CFPB “to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government.” Mr. Mulvaney’s remarks are being widely viewed as an indication that he disapproves of not only the CFPB’s public disclosure of consumer narratives but also its public disclosure of any other consumer complaint information and plans to discontinue all public disclosure of consumer complaint information.
Last month, the CFPB issued a request for information that seeks comment on potential changes to its practices for the public reporting of consumer complaint information. Comments on the RFI are due by June 4. Presumably, any changes to the CFPB’s public disclosure policy will not happen before the end of the comment period and the CFPB’s review of the comments it receives on the RFI.