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Big-Bank Group's Campaign Attacks CFPB Complaint Site

WASHINGTON The Financial Services Roundtable is launching an advertising campaign accusing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of potentially spreading misinformation through the agency's online complaint database.

The CFPB proposed a plan last month to expand its complaint portal to allow consumers to share a "narrative" of specific disputes with financial institutions. But the industry immediately criticized the move, saying it could result in the publication of unsubstantiated claims against banks.

The Roundtable on Monday said it will target the CFPB's portal with advertisements posted in Washington, D.C. subway stations and a social media campaign that are meant to highlight "the problems that the CFPB's rushed plan poses to consumers."

The trade group said the agency's plan would provide companies named in a complaint "little opportunity to respond."

"The CFPB's plan will feature only one side of the story, and such one-sided accounts will not advance the CFPB's mission of better informing and helping consumers," Tim Pawlenty, the Roundtable's president and chief executive officer, said in the release.

The Roundtable has launched a website, CFPBRumors.com, featuring graphics meant to question the reliability of information posted on the complaint portal. One graphic posted on the site is titled "How a Government Agency Spreads a Rumor."

"Posting complaints anonymously bars businesses from substantively responding to the complaints this is key to spreading rumors," the site says.

But the CFPB has argued that allowing consumers to post narratives of a dispute is empowering for those who feel they have been treated unfairly. Personal information, however, is removed to protect consumers' identities.

The agency says it takes steps to verify that a person lodging a complaint has an account at the named institution. It also seeks to prevent misinformation by not including complaints in the database until 15 days after it is filed with the agency or until the company responds, whichever comes first. (Based on feedback, the CFPB said it will extend the comment period on the proposed policy by a month to Sept. 22.)

"Before the CFPB began accepting complaints, many consumers had nowhere to turn to receive a timely response from their financial services provider," a CFPB spokesman said in an email to American Banker. "For many consumers, an explanation from their lender or service provider offers helpful insight or clarity."

Under the proposal, "the CFPB would only publish a consumer's complaint narrative if the consumer provided their informed consent to do so, which they could withdraw at any time," the spokesman added. "Companies would be able to publish their own response, which would appear next to the consumer's complaint narrative."


(2) Comments



Comments (2)
Easy to understand why the largest US banks are deathly afraid of consumers being able to detail their stories of abuse in a single, searchable database. For years, these bullying banks have been able to mistreat consumers with impunity, knowing that there was little chance that a sufficient number of them could join together to file credible lawsuits. Now, the CFPB will enable consumers (and the media)to identify specific patterns of abusive behaviors by specific banks. Even worse, the centralized database will likely force federal financial regulators who have consistently ignored the unfair, deceptive, abusive and predatory acts and practices of the Too Big To Behave Banks to take action against such patterns of bad behavior.
Posted by jim_wells | Tuesday, August 19 2014 at 7:28AM ET
In the dot-com era, we talked about how the Internet could "flatten" hierarchies by allowing anyone to access a new channel and "broadcast" their ideas to the audience. Mr. Pawlenty, and the FSR is trying to stuff a very big blue genie back into a very small green bottle. The industry should probably accept the fact that they are much better off allowing the government to manage this one than they are allowing the free market to take them down. There are some responsible comments on the CCD: see http://www.desolationpress.com/essays/supervisoryinfo.html for a fair analysis of what is out there today.

Behind the fun graphics and scary rhetoric the FSR is pitching, however, we may uncover a darker truth. The financial services industry is simply not prepared to use the web to present ideas in written form to the public. Or to the government, or to each other. A recent piece in the ABA Journal exposes the fact that the pen in question has little or no ink.

See http://www.ababj.com/blogs-3/common-sense-compliance/item/4657-don-t-keep-your-comments-to-yourself

While some publications, like the American Banker, have the courage to foster and allow conversation, the ABA Journal does not (a cursory review reveals four comments published in the last six months). In spite of an open policy such as that found on this site, the banking community shows little or no interest in communicating openly with anyone, for any reason (with the noted exception of Mr. Dimon, who may lose his golden throat in Shakespearean fashion). It may be time to hire a few more English majors up there on Wall Street ... and find the courage to engage the audience on a more level playing field.
Posted by teknoscribe | Monday, August 18 2014 at 8:18PM ET
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