The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, on November 30, 2011, issued a proposed policy statement on the public disclosure of credit card complaint data.

On the same day, the CFPB also published an interim report on the complaints received during the first three months the CFPB’s credit card complaint system was in operation.  Launched on July 21, 2011, the date the CFPB officially opened its doors for business, the system allows consumers to submit complaints by going to the CFPB’s Web site to complete an online form or by calling a toll-free number.

The CFPB’s objectives—as defined by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—include ensuring that “consumers are provided with timely and understandable information to make responsible decisions about financial transactions,” and that the credit card market operates “transparently and efficiently.” In the CFPB’s view, public disclosure of complaint data will serve those objectives because it expects the data to be studied “for trends and patterns” by “academics and groups dedicated to empowering consumers in making well-informed decisions.”  The policy statement contemplates the CFPB’s disclosure of data in a public database and in periodic reports.

The database would not include any confidential personal information, such as the consumer’s name, address, or card number. But it would include the issuer’s name as well as the complaint subject, the consumer’s zip code, the date of the complaint, and whether or how the issuer responded. The policy statement contemplates that an issuer will have at least one month after a complaint is submitted to establish that it did not issue the card in question before the complaint data is updated to the database. Due to perceived privacy risks, the database would not initially include narrative data provided by consumers, such as a description of “what happened” or what would be a “fair resolution.”

Periodic reports may contain an analysis of patterns or trends identified in the complaint data. The types of data aggregations published in the reports will depend on what conclusions the CFPB thinks it can fairly draw from the data for particular reporting periods. The reports may also include standardized metrics that would provide comparisons across reporting periods. Comments on the proposed policy statement must be submitted by January 30, 2012.

Ballard Spahr’s Consumer Financial Services Group produces the CFPB Monitor, a blog that focuses exclusively on important CFPB developments. To subscribe, use the link provided to the right. The group is nationally recognized for its guidance in structuring and documenting new consumer financial services products, its experience with the full range of federal and state consumer credit laws throughout the country, and its skill in litigation defense and avoidance (including pioneering work in pre-dispute arbitration programs).

For more information, please contact Practice Leader Alan S. Kaplinsky, 215.864.8544 or; Practice Leader Jeremy T. Rosenblum, 215.864.8505 or; John L. Culhane, Jr., 215.864.8535 or; Barbara S. Mishkin, 215.864.8528 or; or Mark J. Furletti, 215.864.8138 or


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