The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created after Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Last summer, the CFPB launched a database of consumer complaints related to personal finance products and services. At the time, the agency had received 45,000 complaints and about 19,000 were available online. Last week, the agency expanded the database and now consumers have access to more than 90,000 complaints.

Personal finance products and services covered by the CFPB include mortgages, student loans, credit cards, bank accounts and consumer loans. The database can also be searched using subcategories. For example, mortgage complaints are broken down into several subcategories including reverse mortgages, home equity loans and adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs).

The Consumer Complaint Database includes:

  • Complaints about about 450 different companies
  • Types of complaint
  • Date of submission
  • Consumers' ZIP code
  • Actions taken by the company including whether the response was timely
Company actions fall into one of four categories: monetary relief, closed with non-monetary relief, closed with explanation or closed. The final category, closed, is listed when a company does not provide relief or explanation for the closure.  

For statistics geeks, the information available in the database is interesting but not exactly actionable, at least from my perspective as a consumer. I searched using my ZIP code as a filter and the database returned 19 results – 14 mortgage complaints, two credit card issues, two complaints about bank accounts or services and one student loan complaint.

One of the mortgage complaints was filed on Oct. 23, 2012 against Wells Fargo in the loan modification/collection/foreclosure subcategory. The issue is now closed with explanation and the CFPB considered Wells Fargo’s response to be timely. The consumer disputed the response but that is all the information that is available. Consumers and others using the database as a tool are unable to see the text of the complaint or the explanation.  

I think that the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database is off to a good start but in my opinion, if it is to be used as a tool to support consumers then more information should be made available. Then, it would be a tool that can guide consumers in their personal finance decisions. If the information can be used to support consumers from an educational perspective, then it may reduce the amount of complaints made after something has already gone awry.

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