The CFPB recently posted new "Response Guidance," which outlines what the CFPB deems "best practices" for financial institutions to follow in responding to consumer complaints, on its company portal. The guidance supplements the CFPB’s Company Portal Manual concerning the operation of the online portal used by companies to view consumer complaints submitted to the CFPB. The CFPB also maintains a consumer portal for consumers to check the status of their complaints and view companies’ responses. After communicating with a consumer regarding a complaint, a company is expected to complete a form on the company portal that describes its response and attaches relevant documents.
The guidance states that it contains "recommendations for documenting and responding to your consumers’ complaints based on our best practice observations." The guidance contains "general response guidance as well as product-specific guidance." As a caveat, the guidance says that it is for "you, the Portal User" to determine "how best to respond to your consumers and what information is needed to respond to their concerns."
The product-specific response guidance lists specific information to be included in a company’s response and documents to be attached to the response, depending on the issue involved in the complaint. Noteworthy is the extremely detailed nature of the information and documentation the CFPB apparently expects companies to provide. For example, for complaints involving "fees or late charges" on consumer loans, the CFPB expects a company to provide copies of "any contract or agreement" on which the company relies for its response, the applicable fee schedule, related notices and/or disclosures provided to the consumer, and account statements for the period of time in question.
In addition, the information the CFPB expects companies to provide may not be legally required. For example, for credit card account closings, the CFPB expects to see an adverse action notice that includes the reason for the adverse action, the date the notice was sent to the consumer, and whether the notice was sent by regular mail or electronically. Under Regulation B, however, a company would not be required to send an adverse action notice where the account closing is due to the consumer’s default.
We believe that companies responding to complaints on the CFPB complaint portal should attach relevant documents when necessary to explain responses to consumer complaints, but may not need to provide the documents specified in the guidance document in all instances.