CFPB Announces Intent to End Public Access to Complaint Database

According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, Mick Mulvaney, acting Director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced his intent to end public access to the Bureau's complaint database. Consumers use the database to file complaints against financial companies, and the CFPB publishes these complaints for public use. The company has the option to publish a public-facing response to a consumer's complaint. 

Although Mulvaney intends to end public access to the database, he said the Bureau would continue to maintain a toll-free number and a website to gather consumer complaints and forward them to companies. "I don't see anything in here that says I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government," Mulvaney said. 

The announcement comes as the CFPB is engaging in a series of public comment periods on a dozen issues to "ensure the Bureau is fulfilling its proper and appropriate functions." The twelfth and final in the series relates to the Bureau's handling of consumer complaints, including whether the Bureau should change how it operates the website. 

Many consumer advocates have expressed disappointment in Mr. Mulvaney's announcement. Aaron Klein, fellow in Economic Studies and policy director of the Center on Regulation and Markets at the Brookings Institute, tweeted: "Thanks to @CFPB complaint database, people are more informed when they make choices, and businesses have greater reputational incentives, which promotes a more efficient and effective market. Eliminating #CFPB database is an attack on free markets." Researchers and consumer advocates also use the database to better understand what consumer issues are most problematic. (The top three most common complaints are about mortgages, debt collection, and credit reporting.) 

Since the Bureau started accepting complaints in July 2011, they have received 1.5 million consumer complaints, approximately 16,500 of which have come from Indiana.