Special Alert: CFPB Launches First Monthly Complaint Report Providing Snapshot of Consumer Trends
Buckley Special AlertClinton R. Rockwell, Joseph M. Kolar, John P. Kromer, Jeffrey P. Naimon
On July 16, 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or “Bureau”) launched the first in a new series of monthly complaint reports highlighting key trends from consumer complaints submitted to the CFPB. Importantly, its monthly report provides significant detail on the complaints the CFPB has received, including the names of the companies that received the largest number of complaints.
Currently, the most-complained-about companies are also the largest bank and nonbank financial institutions in the country. Since these institutions have the highest numbers of customers, it is only natural that they have received the highest number of complaints. On the same day as the monthly report’s release, CFPB Director Richard Cordray provided remarks at an Americans for Financial Reform event in Washington, D.C. Director Cordray noted that in future monthly reports, the CFPB hopes to “normalize” its consumer complaint data by accounting for financial institutions’ respective size and volume. To that end, the CFPB issued a Request for Information seeking input on ways to enable the public to more easily understand company-level complaint information and make comparisons. The comment period closes August 31, 2015.
The report also provides data on complaint volume, state and local complaint information, and trends relating to specific consumer financial products or services. In June 2015, for example, debt collection was the most-complained-about product or service with the 32% of complaints filed with the Bureau, while complaints relating to mortgages and credit reporting were next in line.
Going forward, each monthly report will spotlight a particular financial product and geographic area. In the first report, the CFPB closely examines debt collection complaints and complaints from consumers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The CFPB began accepting complaints in July 2011 and launched its Consumer Complaint Database in June 2012, which is the nation’s largest public collection of consumer financial complaints. As of July 1, 2015, the CFPB has handled 650,700 complaints.
In its press release for the monthly report, the Bureau issued a reminder that it expects companies to respond to CFPB complaints within 15 days. The Bureau also expects companies to describe the steps they have taken or intend to take to resolve each consumer complaint. In fact, in its monthly report, the Bureau provided statistics on how often certain debt collection companies were “untimely” in responding to complaints.
Notably, the CFPB stressed that complaints inform the Bureau’s work and can directly feed into its supervision and enforcement prioritization process. “Consumer complaints are the CFPB’s compass and play a central role in everything we do. They help us identify and prioritize problems for potential action,” said CFPB Director Cordray. The publication of this monthly report, together with continuing consumer complaint initiatives from the CFPB, highlights the critical importance of developing an effective complaint management program.
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