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CFPB puts consumer complaints online, verbatim

More than 7,700 consumer complaints about debt collectors, mortgage companies and credit card issuers were made public on Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The move is aimed at giving consumers a window into issues others have experienced with financial services companies.

The Consumer Complaint Database now includes a searchable collection of personal narratives that will allow consumers who are having issues with a company or are considering doing business with a company to see problems others have experienced in their own words. "These are real complaints from consumers who have opted to share their descriptions of what happened," according to the database Web page.

"Every complaint tells us what people are facing in the financial marketplace," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. "Publishing these consumer stories today is a historic milestone that we believe will lead to better outcomes for everyone."

The database has page after page of complaints written by consumers who allege they were harassed by debt collectors, including getting calls at their workplace and having messages left with co-workers in apparent violation of federal law.

Other consumers documented instances in which debts they weren't aware of went to collection, while still more complained of being manipulated by payday lenders.

The CFPB's complaint database has been around for a couple of years, but it didn't include the personal stories and details that are now available, which provide context and detail for anyone researching a particular company or situation.

Personal information has been removed from the narratives. In a review of several dozen complaints, most companies have opted to not make public their responses to the issues raised by the consumers.

"Whether it's car loans, student loans, mortgages or credit cards, consumers have a place to report financial complaints and seek some help in resolving these problems, Ruth Susswein, deputy director of the group Consumer Action, said in a statement.

"Now, thanks to the CFPB," she added, "consumers can rely on actual complaint details to judge for themselves if a financial services company is worth doing business with. Do they support their customers and resolve complaints? This is the kind of criteria consumers need to make smart financial decisions."

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