2 MIN READ

Here’s What We Found When We Scoured a Database of 1M+ Consumer Complaints

Mike Litt, left, Kaitlyn Vitez, and Ruth Susswein, gather with other members of consumer advocate groups to protest outside of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington on Nov. 27, 2017, during a news conference with consumer groups that oppose Mick Mulvaney being named acting director for the bureau.
Mike Litt, left, Kaitlyn Vitez, and Ruth Susswein, gather with other members of consumer advocate groups to protest outside of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington on Nov. 27, 2017, during a news conference with consumer groups that oppose Mick Mulvaney being named acting director for the bureau. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin


A year ago, you probably didn’t know much, if anything, about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But with the agency thrust into the spotlight thanks to litigation over who should run the agency — Mick Mulvaney or Leandra English — you’ve probably heard about the CFPB quite a bit. I mean, there are even stories of a secret Harry Potter-themed army within the ranks of the organization aimed at resisting their new boss.

President Donald Trump has appointed Mulvaney, his budget director, as the acting director of the bureau. But English, the deputy director, claims to have the authority to run the agency and has filed a lawsuit, which is still pending.

The CFPB is the agency that leveled a $185 million fine against Wells Fargo over all those phony accounts. And although its mission has changed since Mulvaney took the helm, it’s still at the forefront of protecting consumers when it comes to student loans, credit cards, bank accounts and other financial instruments.

One of the CFPB’s most notable features is its database of nearly 1 million complaints against financial institutions, like banks, credit reporting agencies and even bitcoin enabler Coinbase. When you file a complaint, the CFPB forwards it to the company you name in the complaint.

It’s useful for people who are looking for a new bank, because you can sort by complaints against an institution. It’s also useful for financial companies that are trying to curb behavior that’s drawing lots of complaints. Also, filing a complaint can sometimes lead to a positive resolution for a customer.

With the change in leadership, I asked the CFPB about the future of this database. I got this response from CFPB senior adviser John Czwartacki: “The CFPB has continued to accept and publish consumers’ complaints without interruption or change.”

To understand the types of complaints the CFPB receives and what companies are most frequently complained about, I took a deep dive into the data earlier this year. This nifty graphic tells you everything you’ve wanted to know about the CFPB complaint database:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Massive Complaint Database
Kristy Gaunt / The Penny Hoarder

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. Kristy Gaunt is an illustrative designer at The Penny Hoarder.

Do you think this article might help you put more money in your pocket?Thumbs UpThumbs Down