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CFPB Issues Proposal to Share Consumer Complaint Narratives

Peter L. Cockrell
Greenberg Traurig, LLP - McLean Office

Brett M. Kitt
Greenberg Traurig, LLP - Washington Office

Gil Rudolph
Greenberg Traurig, LLP - McLean Office

J. Scott Sheehan
Greenberg Traurig, LLP - Houston Office

July 31, 2014

Previously published on July 22, 2014

On July 16th, the CFPB issued a proposed policy statement that would expand the scope of the public portion of its consumer complaint database to include “unstructured consumer complaint narrative data.” Until now, the CFPB has published only basic demographic and summary information it received from consumers who file complaints. To protect personal privacy, the CFPB has refrained from publishing consumers’ raw and unverified allegations.

The proposed policy purports to address these privacy concerns in several ways. First, the CPFB states that it would not publish any narratives unless consumers provide affirmative consent for the CFPB to do so. Second, the CFPB would allow consumers to revoke their consent at any time. Finally, the CFPB proposes to “take all reasonable steps” to ensure that all personal information regarding the consumer is removed from narratives before publishing them, including by applying automated redaction algorithms to automatically detect and redact direct personal identifiers, such as the names and account numbers of consumers.

The CFPB also purports to address industry concern about the fairness of publishing unsubstantiated consumer allegations made against companies by allowing companies to respond publicly to these allegations on the CFPB’s website.

According to the CFPB, publishing consumer complaint narratives would benefit consumers by “provid[ing] important context to the complaint, help[ing] the public detect specific trends in the market, aid[ing] consumer decision-making, and driv[ing] improved consumer service.”
Comments on the policy statement are due 30 days after notice is published in the Federal Register.


The views expressed in this document are solely the views of the author and not Martindale-Hubbell. This document is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case or circumstance.

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