The CFPB’s Rumor Mill

Anne Wallace is Senior Director of Consumer Financial Services and President of ITAC

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently announced its plans to begin posting unverified consumer complaint narratives online. At the time, CFPB Director Richard Corday explained that publishing unverified narratives would help consumers make better informed decisions when shopping for financial services.

As a consumer educator, my reaction was disbelief that the CFPB could get it so wrong and shock that consumers, who expect and deserve facts from their government, would instead get rumors.

Imagine asking a police officer for directions in an unfamiliar city. You’d expect the police officer, a trusted law enforcement official, to point you in the right direction. But what if you followed the directions, only to find out the police officer had pointed you in the wrong direction? Would you still place your confidence in that government representative as an official source of reliable information?

Of course not. And that’s why the CFPB’s plan to post consumer narratives is so baffling.

The CFPB is an agency that’s built around consumer education, and it has published some very good financial education materials, including shopping guides for students and prospective home buyers. Clearly, the CFPB understands that when an individual shops for a financial service, he or she needs factual and reliable information about the questions to ask and how to compare options for the best price.

So why would the CFPB make a U-turn and rush out its proposal without consulting with stakeholders?

Whatever the thinking behind the decision to publish unverified complaints, it’s bad for consumers and bad for the CFPB. Consumers expect and deserve facts, not rumors, from a government agency. For a young government agency like the CFPB, risking its reputation as a trusted source of information is a bad idea.

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