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Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Mick Mulvaney is considering a plan to shut down the public access to the CFPB database of bank complaints against financial institutions. A coalition of organizations — including the American Library Association (ALA)! — has written to Acting Director Mulvaney to protest his plan to end public access by consumers to view and file complaints against financial institutions.
Dear Acting Director Mulvaney:
We the undersigned consumer, civil rights, good government, and pro-transparency groups are writing to express our firm objection to your recently stated plan to end public access to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) database used by consumers to file and view complaints against financial institutions, and to urge you to reconsider your plan.
You have suggested that making consumer complaints public without first verifying all points may be harmful to businesses and used this potential harm to justify ending public access to the complaint database. However, there simply is no clear, objective evidence that such a problem actually exists. Without greater certainty, such a drastic rollback of transparency seems premature. In fact, companies subject to complaints in the database are given a chance to publicly respond and to clarify that same public record if they feel the complaint is unfair or inaccurate. In 2017, companies responded to 95 percent of the complaints submitted through this database, though not all companies chose to share their responses publicly.
Furthermore, it seems as if you have left out any benefit that access to this database provides to consumers. Public access to this complaint database provides consumers with the necessary information to make better pre-purchase choices based in part on experiential information shared by fellow consumers about companies with which they’ve done business. Hundreds of thousands of consumers use the system each year.3 It is essential that this information continue to be available to consumers prior to engaging in such business dealings as committing to a contract, taking out a loan, or opening a financial account.
A publicly accessible, user-friendly, searchable system that allows individuals to research companies, specific complaint types, and actual products or services helps create a competitive, well-functioning marketplace for consumers and corporations alike. Indeed, companies with strong records of standing behind their products and services benefit from a publicly searchable database, and those that work to resolve consumer complaints in a timely and effective manner also stand to gain.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced this week that when it creates software or contracts with others to create software, it will share the code with the public at no charge. “We use open-source software, and we do so because it helps us fulfill our mission.”
- The CFPB’s source code policy: open and shared, By Matthew Burton, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau blog (Apr 6 2012).
We’re sharing our code for a few reasons:
First, it is the right thing to do: the Bureau will use public dollars to create the source code, so the public should have access to that creation.
Second, it gives the public a window into how a government agency conducts its business. Our job is to protect consumers and to regulate financial institutions, and every citizen deserves to know exactly how we perform those missions.
Third, code sharing makes our products better. By letting the development community propose modifications , our software will become more stable, more secure, and more powerful with less time and expense from our team. Sharing our code positions us to maintain a technological pace that would otherwise be impossible for a government agency.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced the launch of a ‘beta’ Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website, ConsumerFinance.gov, a critical link to the American public for soliciting ideas on the bureau’s creation and priorities and for answering questions on its work.
The central mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans—whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products.
There is a video about the agency that describes “the origins of the financial crisis and what the consumer bureau will do to protect American families and improve financial services markets for consumers and providers alike—and ultimately strengthen the entire economy. The video is narrated by director, actor, and producer Ron Howard.”
Hat tip to Sabrina I. Pacifici!