Consumer agency nears release of complaints

Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, participates in a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on January 31, 2012 in Washington, D.C. With few regulatory teeth and partisan fighting over its budget, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continues to carve out a role as a place people go to air financial grievances.

David Brancaccio: In Washington, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been asking people to send in stories about financial scams, crooked pay-day lenders, murky mortgage documents, and other shenanigans.

It's formulating its first list of shame, as Marketplace's John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: In a video on the CFPB’s website, director Richard Cordray puts a high priority on gathering  consumer complaints.

Richard Cordray: Join us. Work with us. Help us make it so. Visit consumerfinance.gov and tell us your story today.

Compiling a national database of consumer grievances helps the agency know where to focus resources, says veteran consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Plus, he says, the bureau can use the complaints to respond to political opponents.

Ralph Nader: It’s very effective to say ‘well senator/representative, send one of your staff over and see all the responses from Americans around the country.’

But a former policy director at the Federal Trade Commission, Todd Zywicki, says compiling complaints doesn’t necessarily lead to good consumer policy.

Todd Zywicki: You want to measure that against the total number of people using these products and that sort of thing, before we leap to conclusions just based on anecdotal evidence.

Complaints about credit cards will be released soon by the CFPB.  Whether the bureau reveals gripes about other financial products is still to be determined.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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