Act now to expand transparency on consumer problems with financial institutions

When a consumer has a bad experience with a financial institution, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) gives him or her a powerful tool to hold that institution accountable: the consumer complaint system. CFPB is now accepting complaints on a wide variety of financial products and services, including mortgages, student loans, bank accounts, debt collection, and more.

For example, if a bank allows unauthorized charges to hit a borrower’s bank account, or a mortgage lender repeatedly loses loan modification paperwork, or a payday lender fails to disclose how much a loan would cost, the consumer can let the CFPB know by submitting a complaint. The institution must then respond to the complaint in a timely manner. A complaint can spur the financial institution to resolve the problem by fixing the error, returning the consumer’s money, or through other means.  Complaints also help the CFPB with its supervision of financial institutions and enforcement of consumer protection laws and regulations.

The CFPB makes this valuable information public through its online database. The database can help consumers make smart decisions about where to conduct their financial business by allowing them to review how banks resolve complaints and interact with their customers. It also empowers advocates and researchers to help the CFPB detect emerging consumer protection issues, as Woodstock Institute did in an analysis of complaints from Illinois.

We have a chance right now to help make the consumer complaint database even more powerful.

The CFPB issued a proposal  to publish short narratives describing the details of complaints it has received. This would provide much more useful information to consumers shopping for financial services and highlight potentially predatory or discriminatory practices. By increasing transparency, financial institutions will be encouraged to compete on providing excellent customer service. Publishing the narrative would be completely voluntary for consumers, and CFPB staff would not publish any personally identifiable information.

Unfortunately, the financial services industry is launching a smear campaign against the database and threatening to sue the CFPB if it releases complaint narratives.

We need to act now to show strong support for making complaint narratives public. Comments on the CFPB’s proposal are due September 22. You can take action by:

·          Submitting a sample comment using this tool

·         Drafting your own letter and submitting it to the CFPB

·         Signing on to a comment letter Woodstock Institute will circulate in the coming week


It’s crucial that the CFPB hears from as many consumer voices as possible since the financial industry and its lobbyists will be commenting in droves to oppose to proposal. Don’t wait—please act now!