06/26/2012 // San Francisco, CA, USA // Keller Grover LLP // Carey Been // (press release)
San Francisco, CA—There’s nowhere for credit card companies to hide, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a website on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 that allows consumers to browse through complaints filed against large financial companies, reports Bay Area consumer protection lawyer Carey Been.
The website will allow users to view the name of the companies that complaints were leveled against, along with the nature of the issue, the company’s response, the timeliness of that response and the zip code of the complainer, MSNBC.com reports.
From this information, users will be able to generate charts of the banks that have received the most consumer complaints, which issues were the most difficult to rectify, and the regions of the country most plagued with these issues.
“A single repository not controlled by banks where consumers are able to see which companies are problematic could truly be a wall of shame for the financial sector,” says Carey Been, a San Francisco consumer protection lawyer. “It has the potential to put more voting power back in the hands of consumers. Through this website consumers will be able to avoid banks with the worst practices; and banks presumably would need to reform bad practices in order to get off of the wall of shame and attract the best customers. It will be interesting to see if this takes root.”
The website is still building and growing as only a small fraction of the 17,000 complaints against credit card companies collected since July 2011 have been listed. While the agency figures out the bugs in the website, only complaints that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has received since June 1st will be available initially. Mortgage and checking account complaints are also expected to be included at a future date.
But the financial industry is less than supportive of the website. They claim that the information provided could be misleading as they characterize it as “raw, unverified data.” In fact, some financial institutions likened the website to “gossip.”
“Bureau publication of complaint data alone implies an official endorsement of inferences drawn out of context and suggests reliability about overall issuer customer experience and satisfaction that is not well-founded and that invites untrustworthy analysis that will mislead consumers, said the American Bankers Association in its public comments on the consumer bureau’s proposal to publish the data.”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains that the website will confirm the authenticity of the business relationship between the complainer and the target and that consumers will be alerted that the accuracy of any complaints or other information has not been confirmed beyond the business relationship.
The complaints will not be published on the website until a bank has responded, or until the 15-day response period has passed, nor will the agency offer opinions on the meaning of the data, a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau stated.
“Through this website, financial companies will be held accountable for their actions. This is a nice step toward creating a more even playing field between big business and consumers,” notes Been, a Bay Area consumer protection attorney.
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