Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Acting Director David Uejio has put a special focus on the manner in which responses are made to the CFPB’s consumer complaint system. Signaling the importance of this issue by undertaking it even before President Joe Biden’s nominee for director, Rohit Chopra, is confirmed to the position, Uejio has called out in a publicly released message to CFPB staff the possibility that some responses to complainants are incomplete—and vary by the complainant’s apparent demographic community.
One of Uejio’s top priorities is ensuring that consumers who submit complaints to the CFPB “get the response and the relief they deserve. Consumer complaints are [the CFPB’s] lifeblood; [they are the CFPB’s] direct connection to consumers in distress, and they are at an all-time high right now.” In noting his understanding that some companies “have been lax in meeting their obligation to respond to complaints,” Uejio warned that it is the CFPB’s expectation that “companies provide substantive responses that address the issues consumers describe in their complaints.”
Additionally, he noted his further understanding that consumer advocates have found disparities in some companies’ responses to Black, brown, and indigenous communities—findings that he labels “unacceptable.” Uejio has directed Consumer Response to prepare a report highlighting the companies with “a poor track record on these issues.” Along with publishing this analysis, Uejio stated his intent to speak directly with the senior leadership of these companies.
The message here is clear: CFPB consumer complaints should not be treated as second-priority items. Companies responding to a CFPB consumer complaint should treat those responses as they would any communication to or with a federal agency by providing a complete and full response or noting specific items that will require more time, why that is, and how long it will take.
Moreover, businesses should establish standards for responses in order to ensure that the same substantive quality is provided to all complainants without regard for their apparent demographic community.