CFPB proposes to publicly disclose consumer complaint narratives

by Ballard Spahr LLP

The CFPB is proposing to expand the complaint data that it publicly discloses in its Consumer Complaint Database to include consumer complaint narratives.

Currently, the CFPB’s Disclosure of Consumer Complaint Policy Statement provides that the complaint data fields the CFPB discloses in the database are limited to non-narrative fields such as the name of the company that is the subject of the complaint, the date the complaint was submitted to the CFPB and the date it was submitted to the company, the consumer’s zip code, the product type, the issue the consumer is complaining about by category, and whether or not the company provided relief.

The CFPB’s proposed policy statement, which would supplement the current Policy Statement, would add the consumer’s narrative, meaning the portion of the CFPB’s complaint submission that asks the consumer to describe what happened. Under the proposal, the CFPB would not publish a complaint narrative unless the consumer has provided consent by checking a consent box to give the CFPB permission to publish the narrative. (The press release, but not the proposal, indicates that “at least initially, only narratives submitted online would be eligible for the opt-in.”) Consumers would have the ability to withdraw their consent at any time and have their narratives removed from the database.

The proposal also contemplates that the CFPB would “apply to all publicly-disclosed narratives, a robust personal information scrubbing standard and methodology” to remove personal information to minimize the risk of someone being able to identify the consumer. (We note that the CFPB does not mention removing inflammatory or offensive statements or identifying information pertaining to company employees.)

The proposal would allow companies to submit a narrative response that would appear next to the consumer’s narrative. In his prepared remarks about the proposal to be delivered at the CFPB’s field hearing today on consumer complaints, Director Cordray observes that complaints are not entered into the public database until after a company responds or has had the complaint for 15 calendar days without responding. He states that because of such timing “where the person has opted to have the complaint narrative published, both the narrative and any response that the company decides to submit would be listed simultaneously.” However, the CFPB’s press release states that “in most cases, [the company's] response would appear at the same time as the consumer’s narrative so that reviewers can see both sides concurrently.” We hope industry will weigh in on whether and how, should the CFPB’s proposal to disclose narratives be adopted, existing timetables for responding to complaints will need to be modified to allow companies sufficient time to produce responsive narratives and have such narratives appear simultaneously with consumers’ narratives. 

Despite its conclusion that the proposed policy statement “constitutes an agency statement of general policy exempt from notice and public comment pursuant to [the Administrative Procedure Act],” the CFPB is providing a 30-day comment period (running from when the proposal is published in the Federal Register.) 

From the time the CFPB initially announced its plans to publicly disclose complaint data, we have joined with industry in expressing our concerns about disclosing unverified data. The inclusion of consumer narratives will only serve to increase the reputational risks inherent in such disclosures. It seems like the CFPB has unfortunately decided to allow the database to become a gripe site.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ballard Spahr LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Ballard Spahr LLP

Ballard Spahr LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.