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Group Letter to CFPB on Complaint Database

Group Letter to CFPB on Complaint Database

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Published by lbrty4all9227
Group letter to the Federal Reserve's consumer board regarding a proposed consumer complaint database.
Group letter to the Federal Reserve's consumer board regarding a proposed consumer complaint database.

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Published by: lbrty4all9227 on Feb 03, 2012
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02/03/2012

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DirectorRichardCordrayBureauofConsumerFinancialProtection1700G.St.N.W.WashingtonD.C.20006
CFPBCREDITCARDCOMPLAINTDATABASECOMMENTS
Docket No. CFPB-2011-0040
 
January30,2012DearDirectorCordray:Wetheundersignedconsumer,civilrights,privacy,opengovernmentgroups,andmembersofAmericansforFinancialReform(AFR),welcometheCFPB’sdecisiontoproposeapolicythatcreatesapubliclyaccessiblecomplaintdatabase.Wehavelongsupportedasystemthatbalancestransparencyforconsumerswithprivacyprotectionsforindividuals.Webelievethesystemworksbestwhenpeoplecanuseotherconsumers’first-handexperienceasatooltomakewisefinancialdecisions.Consumersvaluetheabilitytoaccessauser-friendly,searchablesystemthatallowsthemtoresearchcompanies,specificcomplainttypesand/oractualproductsorservices.Suchasystemhelpscreateacompetitive,wellfunctioningmarketplaceforindividualsandcorporationsalike.Companieswithstrongrecordsofstandingbehindtheirproductsandserviceswillalsobenefitfromapubliclysearchabledatabase.Weappreciateyourwillingnesstoconsiderpracticalwaystomakenarrativeinformationavailabletothepublic.Allowingindividualstoreviewactualcomplaintinformationgivesthereaderafullerunderstandingoftheproblem,andofthecompany’sresponse,informationtheycanusetomakemoreinformeddecisions.Italsopermitspeopletomaketheirownjudgmentsaboutthevalidityofacomplaintandthecredibilityofthecomplainant.Therefore,westronglyrecommendthatconsumernarrativesbeincludedinthedatabase.WesupporttheCFPB’sintenttoprotectconsumers’personalinformation.Werecognizetheneedforcautioninreleasingcomplaintinformationthatmayinadvertentlycontainpersonalorsensitiveinformationandconcurthatmeaningfulstepsmustbetakentoprotectthatdata.Webelievethatitispossibletoinformthepublicofcomplaintdetailswithoutputtinganindividual’spersonallyidentifiableinformationatrisk.
SharingNarrativeData
Wesuggestapracticalapproachtowardsharingnarrativedatawiththepublic,consistingofthreecomponents:1-adefaultrulethatnarrativeswillbeplacedinthedatabase
 
2-anoptionfortheconsumertosubmitinformationthattheagencyshouldkeepconfidentialand3-theuseofsearchalgorithmsandstaffreviewswherenecessarytomonitorpublicnarrativesubmissionsforprivateinformationthatshouldnotbeplacedinthepublicdatabase.Weelaborateonthesecomponentsbelow.Theformforsubmittingcomplaintsshouldpresentaboxfornarrativetextentryinamannerthatmakesclearitisforanonymoussubmissionstoapublicdatabase.Belowthemainnarrativetextbox,theagencyshouldprovideanotherboxforenteringinformationthatconsumerswouldliketheagencytokeepprivate.Thefirstboxcouldbelabeledalongthefollowinglines:
Describewhathappenedsowecanunderstandtheissue.Yourstorywillbeincludedinananonymous,publicdatabasesothatotherconsumerscanseeit.Donotincludeaccountnumbers,SocialSecurityNumbers,orotherinformationthatyoudonotwant postedonconsumerfinance.gov.
Thesubsequentboxcouldbelabeledalongthefollowinglines:
Isthereanythingyouwanttosaythatweshouldkeepconfidential?Nothinginthisboxwillbeincludedinthedatabase.
ThesecondboxalsoshouldincludeawarningthatsomeinformationenteredtherecouldbedisclosedtoathirdpartywhorequestsitunderFOIA,butthatpersonallyidentifiableinformation,suchasSSNoraccountnumbers,wouldnotbedisclosed.Consumerswhochoosenottoshareanycomplaintinformationpubliclymayposttheirfullcomplaintinthe“confidential”box.Generally,companiesshouldhavenoexpectationthattheirresponsetoaconsumer’spubliccomplaintwillremainprivate.Incaseswhereacompanybelievesitisnecessarytoincludeconfidentialdatainaresponsetheytoocouldhavetheoptionofaprivateportionoftheresponse.Businessescansummarizetheirpositionforthepublicdatabase,andstatethatinfairnesstotheircustomertheyhaveoptedtorespondindetailprivately.However,anyboxcontainingabusiness’sprivateresponseshouldcarryacleardisclaimerthattheCFPBretainstherighttodiscloseinformationenteredinthe“private”boxtothemaximumextentpermittedbylaw,includingtheFreedomofInformationAct.Finally,asasafeguardagainstpostingprivateinformationaccidentallyincludedinpublicnarratives,theagencyshoulduseasearchalgorithmtosearchforlikelyinstancesofpersonalinformation—forexamplepersonalnames,streetnames,orstringsofnumbersthatcouldbesocialsecurityoraccountnumbers.Ifthesearchalgorithmdetectssuchinformationwhenaconsumer(oracompany)submitscomplaintdetails,itshouldflagtheissueandasktheconsumer,orcompany,to
 
ensurethatthenarrativedoesn’tincludethattypeofinformation.CFPBstaffcouldreviewsubmissionsflaggedbythealgorithmevenaftertheconsumerhasgiventhecomplaintasecondlook.Webelievethisapproachallowsnarrativeinformationtobedisclosedpubliclywithminimalriskthatanyprivateinformationwillberevealed.
DatabaseDisclosure
Wewouldsuggestthatmoredetailedcontentbeaddedtowhatcomplaintinformationisavailablefordisclosure.Thepolicyproposestoidentifythetypeanddateofthecomplaint,theissuerinvolved,andthecomplainant’szipcode.Forgreatestvalue,wewouldsuggestallowingconsumerstosearchbycityandcensustractaswell,giventhatzipcodesinsomepartsofthecountrycancovertoobroadanareatobeusefulforanalysis.TheabilitytoconnectcomplaintdatawithcensusdatawillallowtheCFPBandotherresearcherstoincorporateinformationthatisstandardpracticeinmanypublicdatasets,andavitaltoolforuncoveringdiscriminatorypractices.Protectedclassinformation,suchasrace,ethnicity,gender,primarylanguageandagedata,shouldalsoberequestedfromcomplainantsforvoluntarycontribution.Thisdatatooshouldbepartofthepubliclysearchabledatabase.Thisisparticularlyimportantbecauseitisoftenonlyintheaggregate,andwithcomparativeinformationthatabusesanddiscriminationmaybevisible.Additionally,wecounseltheCFPBtoprovideclear,sortabledatacategoriesforbothcomplaintsandresolutionstomaketheinformationasusefulaspossible.WerecommendthattheBureauallowmultiple,granularcomplaintandresolutioncategoriesforeachcomplaintinthedatabasebecausedisputesrarelyinvolvejustoneproblem.Forexample,acardholderinabillingdisputewithacreditcardcompanyovermerchantfraudmightwithholdpaymentuntilthedisputeisresolved.Theissuermightsubsequentlysellthedebttoadebtbuyerwhowouldsuethecardholder,withnoresolutiontothedispute.Thatcomplaintshouldbetagged“billingdispute”,withsubcategoriessuchas“merchantdispute”,“merchantfraud”,“customerservicerunaround,”andshouldalsobetagged“debtbuyer,”“debtcollection,”and“legalcollection.”Feecomplaintscouldbebrokendowntoinclude“Latefee”:sizeof,frequency,whenimposed,etc.CFPBstaffcouldtagcomplaintswithadditionalcategoriesastheyworktoresolvethemanduncovernewinformationfromborrowersandissuers.Databaseinformationshouldbeupdateddaily,withlimitedlagtime(i.e.10days)foracompanytorespondandresolveaproblem.Wesupportthepolicy’sproposaltoinclude“whetherandhowanissuerresponded”toaconsumer’scomplaintinthesearchabledatabase.Howacompanyhandles

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