CFPB eyes potential changes to consumer complaint process

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WASHINGTON — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Wednesday asked for public input on the way it receives and processes complaints from consumers in what the agency said was a preliminary step toward improving the complaint process.

The CFPB issued a request for information, or RFI, on “potential changes that can be implemented to the Bureau’s consumer complaint and inquiry handling processes” with the purpose of considering “whether any changes to existing practices would be appropriate.”

The RFI asked consumers to outline “positive and negative aspects of the Bureau’s complaint and inquiry process,” including any suggested updates or improvements and “supporting data other information on impacts and costs.”

The bureau asked for public input regarding specific aspects of the complaint process, including whether consumers should classify their own submissions as complaints or inquiries, and how the bureau should treat complaints versus inquiries.

The bureau also asked for comment on whether there should be a process for companies that are the subject of consumer complaints to reclassify complaints as inquiries or vice versa, as well as what criteria should be considered for reclassification.

Consumers can submit complaints via six separate channels: email, the CFPB’s web portal, referrals from other government agencies, mail, telephone and fax. The RFI asked whether any of those channels should be discontinued or if new channels should be added, particularly telephone and fax. The RFI also asked whether an online chat system might be deployed to “support consumers’ submission of inquiries.”

The bureau also asked whether it should “expand, limit or maintain the ability of authorized third parties to submit complaints.”

The RFI is the 12th in a string of requests for comment the bureau has issued in recent months. Last month, the bureau issued an RFI seeking comment on ways it could improve its web portal, and last week the agency issued an RFI seeking input on how it could improve its financial education programs. Acting CFPB director Mick Mulvaney ordered a thorough review of the bureau's activities in January.

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