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As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) acting director continues to threaten to hide the agency’s public Consumer Complaint Database from consumers and researchers, a new report makes a strong case to keep the database public. The report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group was filed as an official public comment in the CFPB’s Request for Information about the database.
“Hiding the database from the public lets wrongdoers continue unfair practices that cause problems for consumers, but it doesn’t make the problems go away,” said Ed Mierzwinski, senior director for consumer programs at U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “Markets work better when they are transparent.”
The report, Shining A Light on Consumer Problems: The Case for Public Access to the CFPB’s Financial Complaints Database, includes the following findings:
Public complaints are a powerful tool to help financial consumers make choices
Public complaints allow watchdog groups, academics, and the private sector to highlight problems
Public complaints hold financial services firms accountable and help them serve their customers
Public complaints keep the CFPB accountable
The report, the 12th in an ongoing series of reports based on analysis of the CFPB public database by U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, explains how consumers and organizations have used the database. Other government agencies have searchable public consumer complaint databases as well, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with safercar.gov and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), with saferproducts.gov, added Mierzwinski.
“These databases get consumers their money back and resolve other problems precisely because complaints are made public,” said Mike Litt, the director of U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Campaign to Defend the Consumer Bureau. “If we let the CFPB hide its database from public view, there will be an increase in wrongdoing and we won’t even know about it.”
U.S. PIRG Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.
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