Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launches credit card complaint database

WTF Consumer credit card complaint database 6.19.12

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is launching a public database of complaints filed against credit card companies in an effort to improve transparency and enable consumers to make informed choices when they apply for credit cards. 

Previously, such information was limited to the individuals who filed the complaint, banks, regulators, and members of the public who were willing to file Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] requests.

“Our goal is to improve the transparency and efficiency of the credit card market to further empower American consumers,” said Scott Pluta is the Chief of Staff and Acting Assistant Director for Consumer Response at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

How the credit card database will work

The database will include consumer complaints submitted to the federal agency since June 1, 2012 and will contain information such as the date of the complaint submitted, consumer’s 5-digit zip code, reason for the consumer’s complaint, date the complaint was submitted to the credit company for review, the company’s response, whether the company had responded in a timely fashion, and whether the consumer had disputed the company’s response.

Consumers, researchers, and journalists will be able to search the data by complaint type, a card issuer, location, or date.

No personal information, such as the consumer’s name, credit card number or address, will be put into public database. In addition, the database won’t include any whistleblower complaints against credit card issuers.

The CFPB will verify that each complaint was submitted by a legitimate cardholder and properly completed before forwarding the complaint to the credit card issuer. To prevent skewed data, the agency also will not post any duplicative complaints from the same consumer against the same company.

The credit card issuer will have 15 days to either dispute the consumer’s identification or to “provide a substantive response” to each consumer complaint and 60 days to resolve and close “all but the most complicated complaints,” according to the CFPB.

Consumer & privacy advocates praise database

During the public comment period, consumer and privacy advocates praised the creation of a public database on credit card complaints.

Noting that “consumers currently make credit card choices with little or no knowledge of consumer complaints”, the groups said “the public database would help consumers make informed decisions and avoid ‘bad actors’.

In addition, the groups said that the database would “cause issuers to compete more effectively on customer service and product quality” by creating pressure on the companies “to improve whatever metrics are measured by the public database.”

Credit card companies oppose the database

According to the CFPB’s final policy statement, “many industry commentators asserted that the database would confuse consumers and unfairly damage the reputation of credit card issuers.”

The companies objected, in particular, to the disclosure of credit card issuer names in the CFPB’s public database.

For more information or to file a complaint against a credit card issuer, please visit ConsumerFinance.gov/complaint.

 

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