Introducing the Yelp for Personal Finance

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yelp-for-financeIf you think Yelp-ranting about rancid guacamole is exciting, imagine having the chance to complain about the shoddy service at your new bank to the entire Internet.

This hypothetical scenario may actually soon become a reality, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently proposed plans to publish people’s gripes against financial institutions online. The goal is twofold: to improve customer service at these organizations by subjecting them to public criticism and to help consumers make more informed financial decisions.

Right now, the CFPB publishes basic descriptions of consumer complaints on its website (they receive about 20,000 every month). But the plan is to give consumers the option to have their entire story, without any identifying information, posted in the agency’s database. Before the complaint is published, companies will be given 15 days to respond, and their feedback will be published alongside the original complaint.

According to Bloomberg, 11% of current complainers receive “monetary relief” from companies, and another 11% see non-financial results, like having debt collectors stop calling their home. The new system might prompt companies to resolve issues more thoroughly and speedily.

Still, some organizations are skeptical that the upgraded database will yield positive results. In a statement released July 16, the Consumer Bankers Association said, “This action will ultimately add to consumer confusion, harm industry reputations, and undermine any hope the CFPB may have to be viewed as a fair and honest broker.”

At this point, it’s unclear whether an expanded database would cause consumers unnecessary confusion about the financial industry or help them make better money decisions.

But at the very least, all those tales of frustration will make for an interesting read.

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