The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
recently made its
credit card complaint database available to the public. The data is being refreshed daily beginning with
June 1, 2012. The database website provides some sample visualizations
that can be created from the data. The visualization tool is pretty robust,
but does require some basic skill with spreadsheets and database use to
make it generate useful charts.
What's great about the CFPB releasing this data is that, normally,
it would only be available to someone who took the time to file a Freedom
of Information Act request. By making the data available to all, the CFPB
is taking steps to increase transparency in government. The information
is searchable by credit card company, ZIP Code of the complaining party,
among other fields. The visualization tools allow you to view complaints
plotted on a
map of the U.S., for example.
When a consumer submits a complaint to the CFPB, the Bureau notifies the
card issuer of the complaint. The card issuer has 15 days to respond to
the Bureau. In general, it is expected that the issuer will resolve and
close the complaint in 60 days. If the card issuer fails to respond on
time, or if other red flags are raised, then the complaint is referred
over to the CFPB's Consumer Response division, which works closely
with the other enforcement-level divisions of the CFPB.
For a more detailed account of how the CFBP handles consumer complaints,
you can read the Bureau's report
As one might expect, the
American Bankers Association is not too fond of this initiative:
"The complaint data are incomplete, unrepresentative, and unverified,
and therefore, if released according to specific categories as proposed,
an unreliable and misleading source of information about customer experience
and satisfaction with the value, reliability, and functionality of any
financial product that will mislead consumers."
Jeff Sovern notes, this isn't that different than consumer credit reports, many of
which contain inaccurate information. Even when consumers append their
own comments to a negative credit report entry, there is no evidence that
lenders pay any attention to those comments.
If any of our readers are better at using the CFPB's data visualization
tools than I am, please share your charts and graphs in the comments.
If you want to submit a complaint related to credit cards, mortgages, bank
accounts, student loans, or other consumer loans