March 28 - The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has gone live with the nation’s largest public database of federal consumer financial complaints, opening up to consumers across the country information on more than 90,000 individual complaints on financial products and services.
“By sharing these complaints with the public, we are creating greater transparency in consumer financial products and services,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray at a field hearing in Des Moines, Iowa, where he announced the expansion of the CFPB Consumer Complaint Database. “The database is good for consumers and it is also good for honest businesses. We believe the marketplace of ideas can do great things with this data.”
Consumer Complaint Database
The launch expands the Consumer Complaint Database significantly from about 19,000 credit card complaints to more than 90,000 complaints on mortgages, student loans, bank accounts and services, other consumer loans, and credit cards. In many cases, it includes the sub-category of products. For example, for mortgages it includes reverse mortgages, conventional fixed mortgages, conventional adjustable mortgages, and home equity loans or lines of credit.
The database allows the public to see what consumers complained about and why, as well as how and when the company in question responds. It has more than 1 million data points, covering approximately 450 companies. It includes the type of complaint, the date of submission, the consumer’s ZIP code, and the company that the complaint concerns. The database also includes information about the actions taken on a complaint by those companies – whether the company’s response was timely, how the company responded, and whether the consumer disputed the company’s response. A consumer’s identity and other personal information is not included in the data.
The database allows users to easily track, sort, search and download information. The data is also available via API (application programming interface), which allows developers to build applications, conduct analyses and perform research. Consumers can build their own visualizations, charts and graphs. The data can also be embedded on other websites and shared through social media.
The live database updates daily; so as the CFPB handles more complaints, more will be added. When the CFPB accepts consumer complaints about other financial products and services, they will be put on the database after a period of time. For example, credit reporting complaints, which the CFPB recently began to accept, will be included in the database in the near future.
Complaints are listed in the database only after the company responds to the complaint or after they have had the complaint for 15 days, whichever comes first. Importantly, while the allegations in the complaint are not verified, a commercial relationship between the consumer and the company is substantiated before the complaint is added to the database.
Companies can categorize their responses to a complaint in a number of ways. Examples, and what they mean, include:
Consumers are given the option to review and dispute company responses. The CFPB then reviews that feedback. The CFPB uses this along with other information, such as the timeliness of the company’s response, in a variety of ways, for example, to help prioritize complaints for investigation.
The expanded Consumer Complaint Database went live at: www.consumerfinance.gov/complaintdatabase.
A blog post about the data and an interactive example of what can be done with it, can be found at: www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/releasing-complaint-data-about-credit-cards-mortgages-student-loans-bank-accounts-services-and-other-consumer-loans/.
A breakdown of the Consumer Complaint Database is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201303_cfpb_consumer-complaint-database-fact-sheet.pdf.
A Call to Action
The CFPB is encouraging the public, including consumers, analysts, developers, data scientists, civic hackers and companies that serve consumers, to analyze, augment and build on the public database to develop ways for consumers to access the complaint data or mash it up with other public data sets.
The CFPB would like the public to highlight innovative uses of the data, from visualizations to new tools, by tweeting @CFPB using the hashtag #CFPBdata.
A Snapshot of Consumer Complaints
The CFPB has also published on its website another report containing aggregate data and analysis of all the 130,000 complaints it has received up to March 1, 2013. This number is larger than the 90,000 complaints in the public database because it includes complaints that have been referred to other regulatory agencies, found to be incomplete, are still being confirmed by the company, or are pending with the consumer or the CFPB.
The snapshot can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201303_cfpb_Snapshot-March-2013.pdf.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the CFPB, directs the Bureau to make timely and understandable information available to consumers so they can make responsible decisions about consumer financial products and services. After asking the public for its opinion, the CFPB made credit card complaint data publically available in June 2012 by launching a beta version of the Consumer Complaint Database.
A link to the Consumer Complaint Database policy statement extending the database to other consumer financial products and services is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201303_cfpb_Final-Policy-Statement-Disclosure-of-Consumer-Complaint-Data.pdf.
To file a complaint, consumers can: