CFPB Extends Time for Public Comment on Proposed Policy Statement on Disclosure of Consumer Complaint Narrative Data

By: Chrissy M. Dunn

On July 29, 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it would provide additional time for public comment on its recently released Notice of Proposed Policy Statement on Disclosure of Consumer Complaint Narrative Data.

The CFPB seeks comments related to the proposed extension of the policies to include complaint narratives. With that scope, the Bureau is specifically seeking public comment on the following:

  • Consumer Consent to Disclose Narratives
  • Company Response
  • Personal Information Scrubbing Standard and Methodology

The CFPB currently discloses limited information regarding complaints received about consumer financial products and services through its web-based, public-facing Consumer Complaint Database. The CFPB now proposes to expand the disclosed information to include consumer complaint narrative data (“narratives”). The CFPB states that only narratives for which opt-in consumer consent is obtained, and that have been scrubbed of personal identifying information, will be subject to disclosure.

The CFPB acknowledges certain risks related to the proposed narrative disclosures. Specifically the CFPB acknowledges the following risks in its notice of proposed policy statement:

  1. Possible re-identification of actual consumers within the Consumer Complaint Database. To de-identify data is to remove personal information from a dataset, thereby obscuring individual identities. Re-identification generally occurs when separate datasets are combined to reestablish some number of individual identities.
  2. Narratives may contain factually incorrect information. This may occur where a complainant misunderstands or misrecollects what happened. If consumers were to rely without question on all narrative data, it is possible that subsequent purchasing decisions may be based on misinformation. To the extent this risk may be realized, both consumers and the financial institutions that lose business due to misinformation would be disserved. The CFPB also notes the risk that financial institutions could incur intangible reputational damage as a result of the dissemination of complaint narratives.

The CFPB contends that these risks are mitigated because the proposed policy provides for public release of the company’s response to the consumer’s complaint, side-by-side and scrubbed of any personal information.

The CFPB initially invited public comment on the proposed policy for a period of thirty days. On July 29, 2014, it posted on its blog that, due to feedback and requests received, the comment period has been extended to September 22, 2014, 60 days from the date the proposed policy was published in the Federal Register.

Comments may be submitted as follows:

  1. Electronically at http://www.regulations.gov.
  2. Mail: Monica Jackson, Office of the Executive Secretary, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 1700 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20552.
  3. Hand Delivery/Courier: Monica Jackson, Office of the Executive Secretary, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 1275 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002.

All submissions, including attachments and other supporting materials, will become part of the public record and will be subject to public disclosure. As such, sensitive personal information, such as account numbers or Social Security numbers, should not be included. Comments will not be edited to remove any identifying or contact information, such as name and address information, email addresses, or telephone numbers.

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