It’s been the big talk in the credit card industry for months. Now, it’s become a reality and the credit card companies are anything but happy, which means consumers are going to appreciate the purpose. CFPB’s database is now live and available for consumer input and review.
The new database will catalog consumer complaints against their credit card companies and it launched on Tuesday. Despite efforts by financial entities, including credit card companies and banks – along with some politicians – the bureau continued to move forward and made the new database public just as it planned.
Created and hosted by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it allows consumers to post their complaints on their credit card networks with the goal of extending the service to include two more problem areas in the financial sector: mortgages and student loans.
And if you think there’s not going to be a lot going on, consider this: the CFPB was formed as part of the financial overhaul in 2009. It officially went into business last July and since then, it’s collected a whopping 50,000 complaints on nothing but credit cards since then.
By making our data publicly available, initially in the area of credit cards, we hope to improve the transparency and efficiency of this essential consumer market,
said Richard Cordray, director of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a press briefing with reporters late Monday afternoon. He goes on to reiterate his belief that this is a good thing for consumers and points out it’s the first time the public will be able to see individual data on consumer credit card companies.
The central mission of the CFPB is to
make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans – whether… a mortgage, credit card or other financial products.
The bureau also works to ensure financial entities are operating ethically and as transparently as reasonable. There are changes going on within this sector and CFPB works to bridge those changes into the homes of American consumers.
The disclaimer on the website reads:
This contains data from the consumer credit card complaints received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We do not verify the accuracy of these complaints, but we do take steps to confirm a commercial relationship between the consumer and the identified company. Data is refreshed daily, starting from June 1st, 2012.
The database has a number of ways to sort and view the information. Consumers can sort by complaint, the company, zip codes, the date the information was received or even the way the credit card company handled the complaint. Consumers can also create pie or graph charts, embed the information or view it any number of other ways.
The only thing the database doesn’t provide is identifying information about the consumers who lodged those complaints. The only information included in the database about the consumer is his zip code.
Efforts to Stop Database
Credit card companies and other financial trade groups fought hard to keep the database from going public. Letters were submitted to the bureau with concerns about whether the agency would be able to verify the complaints. Would the be able to discern legitimate concerns from what they collective referred to as “baseless” complaints. “Disclosing every complaint, without any indication of the veracity of the complaint, is inherently misleading,” wrote Fred R. Becker Jr., president of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.
To that end, the bureau does require consumers to attest to their complaints being accurate to the “best of their knowledge”. The bureau will then confirm with the bank or card network there there is indeed an account with the consumer. Those companies and banks will then be given fifteen days to verify it and then sixty days to address the problem.
Meanwhile, these companies continue to insist no good can come from the release of such information. Others are saying there are legalities associated with the database and say the bureau is going to mean a lot of work for lawyers, suggesting lawsuits may occur as a result.
The database, while it didn’t go live until this week, is retroactive to June 1. This is when the bureau began to adjust its methods of collecting the information.
At the time of this writing, Tuesday night, there are 170 complaints in the database, at the time the database went live on Tuesday morning, there were 100 complaints. It’s expected the database will grow quickly, says the bureau.
The bureau continues to collect complaints via its website, telephone, mail, email, fax and from other agencies. The website also has reports archived on the site, including “Consumer Response: A Snapshot of Complaints Received” and “Consumer Response Annual Report”. For consumers wishing to file a complaint online, they can do so at consumerfinance.gov/complaint. Finally, there are video tutorials available on the website for those unsure of how to use the collected information.