On March 1, 2018, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued its sixth request for information (RFI) since Mick Mulvaney, acting head of the CFPB, began his tenure. This request seeks “comments and information from interested parties on the usefulness of complaint reporting and analysis, as well as specific suggestions or best practices for complaint reporting.” In its press release, the CFPB explained that, consistent with Mr. Mulvaney’s call for more evidence-based regulation, this RFI was designed to provide evidence as to whether the Bureau is acting appropriately and with the best outcomes with respect to consumer complaints. The process arose out of (1) Mr. Mulvaney’s view that the previous director’s approach to the CFPB’s mission, including, enforcement, was overly expansive and aggressive; and (2) his desire to correct the CFPB’s course. Prior RFIs issued since Mr. Mulvaney’s tenure began have included requests relating to civil investigative demands, administrative adjudications, enforcement, external engagements, and the supervision process. This RFI seeks feedback focused specifically (but not exclusively) on four different areas: (1) the frequency of reporting; (2) the content of its reporting; (3) the reporting methodology; and (4) the publication of consumer complaint information.
The CFPB’s current practice with respect to consumer complaints includes publishing reports on complaint submissions, which included complaint volume over time, company closure categories, qualitative analyses of common issues and trends in complaints for consumer financial products and services. It has also published, since 2015, monthly reports, and since 2017, special edition reports. There is also a publicly available consumer complaint database that contains consumers’ (unverified) credit card complaints.
Some consumer advocates believe this type of RFI is just the latest evidence of the CFPB’s attempt to undermine the CFPB’s mission to regulate the consumer financial services industry. However, financial services companies feel differently. For instance, one industry concern that has been reported is that the CFPB’s indiscriminate publishing of complaints from the database gives even baseless complaints some form of legitimacy. Given that there are examples of federal agencies that manage consumer complaints differently, this RFI will give financial institutions a chance to advocate for a different regulatory approach, and point to any existing frameworks that they think work better.
Finally, the CFPB’s press release made clear that this is not the final RFI, and that the CFPB would be entertaining more commentary in the future, including on its rulemaking process. LenderLaw Watch will continue to monitor the CFPB’s RFIs, and any changes that emerge as a result.