WASHINGTON -- A new online database devoted to cataloging consumer complaints against credit card companies launched Tuesday.
The website, created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will begin by posting grievances against credit card companies, and will eventually include complaints regarding mortgages and student loans.
The bureau has collected more than 45,000 complaints on all those products since last July.
"By making our data publicly available, initially in the area of credit cards, we hope to improve the transparency and efficiency of this essential consumer market," said Richard Cordray, director of the consumer bureau in a press briefing with reporters on Monday.
"We believe it's the first time for the public to see such individual complaint data on consumer credit cards," Cordray added.
The database will also disclose how the bank or card issuer handled the complaint, but it won't release information about the consumers who lodge them.
Banking trade groups have pushed back hard on the move to make the database public. In letters to the bureau, they expressed concerns about the agency's ability to ensure complaints are valid and accurate.
The industry wanted the consumer bureau to come up with a system that separates legitimate complaints from baseless ones -- and to disclose only legitimate complaints.
"Disclosing every complaint, without any indication of the veracity of the complaint, is inherently misleading," wrote Fred R. Becker Jr., president of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.
The bureau asks consumers to attest to the fact that complaints are true to the best of their knowledge. Additionally, no complaint will be disclosed until a company confirms that it has in fact done business with the consumer, according to bureau staff.
Banks and financial institutions have 15 days to respond to a complaint and 60 days to address the problem.
Other financial groups pushed to keep secret the identity of banks and card issuers that were being complained about.
"There is no public policy purpose served by the release of data by issuer. Disclosing the names of individual card issuers serves only as fodder for plaintiff attorneys," according to a letter submitted to the bureau on the database by the American Financial Services Association, the Consumer Mortgage Coalition and the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The bureau has collected more than 16,000 complaints about credit cards over the past year. But it's only posting grievances it's received since June 1, 2012, because that's when the agency adjusted the way it collects responses it gets from companies.
So far there are only about 100 complaints this month, but officials say they expect the database will grow quickly.
The bureau is collecting complaints via its website, telephone, mail, email, fax and from other agencies.
More info here: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaintdatabase/