On September 29, BuckleySandler hosted a webinar, “Meeting the CFPB’s Expectations for Consumer Complaint Management,” presented by partner Jonice Gray Tucker, counsel Lori Sommerfield, and counsel Kari Hall. This recap covers highlights from their discussion, which included a discussion of the CFPB’s expectations and practical advice for managing consumer complaints in the evolving regulatory environment.

Background

The webinar began with a brief background on the CFPB’s approach to consumer complaints. In particular, the presenters touched upon how the CFPB has used complaints as a driving force in determining priorities in guiding supervisory work, identifying leads for enforcement, and in informing rulemaking efforts. The presenters also discussed how the Bureau may deal with deficiencies in consumer complaint management in examinations and ways in which the outgrowth of such deficiencies may lead to enforcement actions. In addition, the presenters highlighted key elements of effective complaint management programs.

Fundamental Issues in Consumer Complaint Management

The presenters continued with a discussion of threshold issues in developing and implementing a consumer complaint management system. In particular, the presenters focused on why complaint management is important, the challenges of defining what is or is not a complaint, and  timelines for responding to complaints. The presenters pointed out that the CFPB expects capture of both written and oral complaints, as well as awareness and understanding of third-party service provider complaints.

CFPB Complaint Management Guidance to Date and Recent Complaint Developments

The presenters then covered the CFPB’s existing guidance on complaint management, as well as recent developments.

CFPB guidance includes:

CFPB Supervision and Examination Manual Consumer Response Annual Report Company Portal Manual, Version 2.15 (August 2015) CFPB Supervisory Highlights

Recent developments include the publication of complaint narratives and the issuance of monthly complaint reports. Both CFPB initiatives are viewed as controversial by the industry because the Bureau does not verify complaint information or “normalize” the data to account for the fact that larger companies may receive more complaints than smaller companies.

Best Practices

The webinar concluded with a discussion of best practices for consumer complaint management. Among other things, the presenters discussed strategies that can be used to centralize the complaint management function; key issues to consider in connection with monitoring, tracking, and escalating complaints; issues that should be covered in policies, procedures, and training as well as mechanisms for maintaining an open dialogue with regulators and consumer advocates.