The narratives cover problems consumers encountered when doing business with various financial institutions, including mortgage lenders and servicers.
The CFPB commenced by publishing a batch of more than 7,700 consumer complaints. The bureau hopes that the narratives will inform consumers and help them make better decisions about which financial institutions they do business with.
The CFPB's consumer complaint database was launched in 2012, but the bureau didn't decide to make the narratives public until last year.
The proposal to make the narratives public was strongly opposed by lenders and industry trade groups, which argued that it was unfair to make unverified and unsubstantiated complaints about lenders public.
What's more, opponents argued that making the complaints public would not have the intended effect of educating borrowers and protecting them from fraud.
All complainants must ‘opt in’ in order to make their complaints public. The CFPB says thus far, about half of all the people who have filed complaints have opted to make their narratives public-facing.
‘The bureau's work improves as we hear directly from consumers,’ says Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, in a statement. ‘Every complaint tells us what people are facing in the financial marketplace. Publishing these consumer stories today is a historic milestone that we believe will lead to better outcomes for everyone.’
The bureau reports that as of June 1, it had handled more than 627,000 complaints, with mortgages and debt collection being the most frequent topics.
Basic information collected through the database includes the date of submission, the consumer's ZIP code, the relevant company, the product type, the issue the consumer is complaining about and how the company handled the complaint. All of the complaints are anonymous.
The public-facing complaint narratives are ‘scrubbed’ of certain information so as to protect the identities of the complainants.
The CFPB says its consumer complaint database is searchable by product names or features, such as the brand name of a credit card or a mortgage feature. Users can also search using terms such as ‘lost paperwork,’ ‘foreclosure scam’ or ‘robo-signing.’ In addition, users can sort complaints by state and ZIP code to spotlight local trends and information.
Companies have 180 days to respond to each complaint using pre-set responses that are part of the database and that are also public-facing.
The bureau has issued a request for information seeking public input on ways to make to make the database even more useful for consumers. Specifically, the bureau is looking for ideas to enable the public to more easily understand information in the database and make comparisons of the complaints by normalizing, or adding context to, the complaint data.
To view the complaint narratives, click here.