The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau went forward with a controversial move Thursday to include narratives in its complaint database.
Critics have argued that the narratives will allow unverified details to be posted in public which could potentially smear a company's reputation or have other negative economic effects. But the CFPB has contended that it takes steps to authenticate complaints and confirm a commercial relationship.
The CFPB also said it has ensured it will provide more balance to businesses by withholding narratives until the company in question gives a public-facing response or after the company has had the complaint for 60 days.
"The narratives provide context to complaints, are easily searchable, and help spotlight specific trends," the CFPB said in a statement. "The narratives can also help consumers to make more informed decisions, as well as encourage companies to improve the overall quality of their products and services and more vigorously compete over good customer service." The narratives will complement other elements of the consumer complaint database which went live in June 2012 and includes information about the financial institution in question, the consumer's ZIP code and the nature of the complaint. All consumer identity information, however, remains confidential.
With the addition to the consumer complaint database, the CFPB said 7,700 consumer narratives were available to the public to read.
"Every complaint tells us what people are facing in the financial marketplace," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said. "Publishing these consumer stories today is a historic milestone that we believe will lead to better outcomes for everyone."