A.G. Underwood Leads Coalition Of 14 AGs Urging CFPB To Retain Public Access To Consumer Complaint Database

News from the New York Attorney General's Office 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 5, 2018

Attorney General’s Press Office / 212-416-8060
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A.G. UNDERWOOD LEADS COALITION OF 14 AGS URGING CFPB TO RETAIN PUBLIC ACCESS TO CONSUMER COMPLAINT DATABASE

Database Provides Critical Support in AGs’ Investigations; Arms Consumers with Tools they Need to Make Informed Decisions; and Helps Responsible Companies Identify and Correct Problems

NEW YORK  New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood led a coalition of 14 Attorneys General in urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to retain its public database of consumer complaints. The joint letter emphasizes the numerous benefits of a public database to state law enforcement, honest businesses, and the public at large. 

The letter is in response to a March 1, 2018 request for information (RFI) issued by the CFPB, seeking comments from the public “to assist the Bureau in assessing potential changes that can be implemented to the Bureau’s public reporting practices of consumer complaint information.” 

“The CFPB public database represents an admirable commitment to transparency.  By moving to eliminate public access to the database, the Trump administration is yet again putting corporate interests over those of consumers, shielding corporate wrongdoing from public view,” said Attorney General Underwood.

The CFPB’s public complaint database was created as part of a lengthy, thorough, and thoughtful process in which the CFPB solicited and considered the views of all stakeholders, including industry groups.  Moreover, as set forth in the letter, a public database of consumer complaints is consistent with the CFPB’s statutory mandate contained in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which charged the CFPB with, among other things, collecting consumer complaints, publishing information relevant to consumer financial products and services, providing consumers with information needed to make informed financial decisions, and ensuring transparency in the consumer financial products and services market.  Since the complaint database went live on June 19, 2012, over a million consumers have filed complaints, and 97 percent of these consumers received a response from the company that was the subject of their complaint. 

In the joint letter, the Attorneys General underscore that:

  • The large number of complaints and functionality of the database – which allows users to narrow searches by company, state, product, etc. – have enabled their offices to identify patterns of widespread misconduct that have led to investigations into debt collection companies, student loan servicers, for-profit universities, and other companies whose misconduct was initially brought to our attention through a critical mass of complaints filed with the CFPB. 
  • The database arms consumers with information so they can make informed decisions and avoid bad actors in the marketplace. 
  • The database benefits responsible companies because it allows them to better understand their customers, and provides them the opportunity to identify problems and take corrective action. 

The 14 Attorneys General who submitted the letter collectively represent over 131 million Americans, or 40 percent of the U.S. population.  The Attorneys General expressed concern that the CFPB carefully consider facts and arguments in favor of continuing the public database, particularly in light of  press reports indicating that Acting Director Mulvaney may have already made up his mind to eliminate the database. In a recent speech to the American Bankers Association, Acting Director Mulvaney suggested that the decision to shut down the database was a foregone conclusion.   

The letter was led by Attorney General Underwood and also signed by the Attorneys General of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.