CBA & ABA Comment Letter re CFPB's Proposed Complaint Rating System

December 28, 2016

 

OMB Desk Officer for the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection

Office of Management and Budget

New Executive Office Building, Room 10235

Washington, DC 20503

 

RE:                  Comment Request on the Proposed “Consumer Response Company Response Survey”

Docket No. CFPB-2016-0049;

OMB Control Number: 3170-XXXX

 

Dear OMB Desk Officer:

 

The American Bankers Association (ABA)1 and Consumer Bankers Association (CBA)2 appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s (Bureau) proposed Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA)3 collection, titled “Consumer Response Customer Response Survey” (the Proposed Collection).4 Through the Proposed Collection, the Bureau seeks to replace the function on the Bureau’s complaint handling process (that allows a complainant to dispute the company’s complaint response) with a survey and an opportunity to provide written comments. The aggregated results of the survey, as well as the individual narratives submitted, would be published in the Bureau’s Consumer Complaint Database (Database).

 

The Proposed Collection violates the PRA and should be denied. Among other purposes, the PRA was enacted to “ensure the greatest possible public benefit from and maximize the utility of information created, collected, maintained, used, shared and disseminated by or for the Federal Government.”5 The PRA achieves this goal by requiring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review federal agency requests to collect information from 10 or more persons or entities.6 By the PRA’s terms, OMB’s approval should be provided only if the information collection is “necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility.”7

 

The Proposed Collection will provide minimal, if any, utility. Thus, we believe it fails the PRA’s test. The key problem is that in order to be of utility it must be accurate and not be misleading. The collection, however, will not provide an objective and informative report of how promptly and effectively companies handle consumer complaints. Instead, the collection will aggregate ratings and narrative feedback that are based on views from the narrow field of consumers that file complaints, subjectively measured by the complainants’ expectation of the relief to which they believed or hoped that they were due. A customer that submits a complaint based on a misunderstanding about a product or service or one that submits a generalized expression of frustration against a company will be dissatisfied if the company declines to provide the requested relief—relief to which the complainant may not be entitled. We believe these are the customers likely to respond to the survey, and their evaluations, presumably expressions of dissatisfaction, will not provide the public with “timely and understandable information about consumer financial products and services” or “improve the functioning, transparency, and efficiency of markets” as the Bureau asserts.8 Rather, the Proposed Collection and disclosure will have little, if any, practical utility but would be prone to misleading impressions about actual overall complaint resolution.

 

Furthermore, the Proposed Collection provides no criteria to guide a respondent in rating the company, may lead to the collection of duplicative information to that found in the complaint, and presents significant risks to consumer privacy. All of these factors further diminish the utility of the collection and support denial of the PRA request.

 

We are disappointed that the Bureau seeks to continue and further expand its troubling practice of publishing unreliable information under U.S. Government imprimatur, abusing its status as an agency of the Federal Government. Since its creation, the Bureau has aggressively sought attention for the Database while failing to solve the problems in the accuracy, integrity, and usefulness of the information publicly reported on the Database. Further, the Bureau has failed to conduct a study on the usefulness of the information, as we have asked the Bureau to do repeatedly in comment letters and meetings with the Bureau.9

 

We urge OMB to reject the Bureau’s request. We hope the denial will lead the Bureau to examine more adequately the Database’s utility to consumers and the risks it presents to consumer privacy before the Bureau expends additional taxpayer money collecting and reporting additional information unlikely to benefit consumers and more likely to mislead them...(Continue Reading)