On November 18, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published a blog post outlining its recent initiative to share consumer complaint data with cities and counties so they can, “increase their efforts to protect consumers at the local levels.”
According to the CFPB, one of the major ways it regulates consumer financial products and protects consumers from unfair practices is through collecting and responding to consumer complaints. The complaints it receives informs the CFPB’s regulatory priorities and enforcement activities. The CFPB recently launched an initiative to increase the impact of its complaint data by sharing it with local governments. The CFPB claims this will help protect as many consumers as possible from predatory lending, barriers to credit, and other consumer harms.
Initially, the CFPB chose cities and counties that were best positioned to benefit from the CFPB’s complaint data such as: (1) Local governments with civil or criminal prosecutorial authority; and (2) Local governments with, or that are working to create, financial empowerment offices to improve financial stability for low- and moderate-income households. The CFPB then began onboarding the local governments to its Government Portal, which gives agencies access to more granular information about consumers’ complaints and companies’ responses than is available on the public portal.
The Government Portal allows cities and counties to:
- See in real-time what consumers are experiencing in the financial marketplace and how companies are responding;
- Download complaints and supporting documentation to investigate and enforce rules protecting consumers;
- Compare problems their constituents are facing to other localities and nationwide;
- Analyze data by time period, company, geography, and more;
- Securely refer individual complaints to the CFPB;
- Receive the list of companies responding to complaints.
In less than three months, more than a dozen cities and counties have expressed interest in accessing the Government Portal. Jurisdictions participating in the program include: Los Angeles, California; New York, New York; Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Given the CFPB’s uncertain future, this initiative may signal that the CFPB is focusing more of its resources into partnering with state and local governments to promote its policies, thereby ensuring the continuation of its work even if its funding or authority is drastically reduced.