06/19/2012 12:01 am ET

Credit Card Complaint Database Opens For Public View Online

Call it the Yelp of the financial services world.

Starting today, consumers can see complaints about credit card companies through an online Consumer Financial Protection Bureau credit card database. While there won't be starred reviews or suggested products, the CFPB eventually will provide databases of complaints and other comments about mortgages and student loans, too.

"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," Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, said in a statement.

The agency received more than 17,000 complaints about credit cards alone -- mostly billing disputes -- and more than 45,000 complaints across all categories between July 21, 2011 and June 1, 2012.

The CFPB said it plans to open its other databases -- those with complaints about mortgages, student loans and checking accounts -- for public view by the end of the year. They will allow readers to sort and filter information based on specific terms.

The bureau was opened in July 2011 as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. One of its missions is to collect and broker complaints between consumers and financial companies. The information collected by the CFPB is used as part of the regulator's rule-making process.

The credit card complaint database includes only complaints made on or after June 1. The bureau has worked with issuers to create response categories -- or how each complaint is resolved -- over the last year, and those were only recently finalized, a senior spokesman for the CFPB said Monday.

For every category, companies can respond to a consumer in one of four ways. After the CFPB receives and routes a complaint, the company has up to 15 days to respond and a total of 60 days to close a complaint. Consumers can expect to receive a refund, an explanation, a correction or change in account terms, or simply have the case closed.

Between December 2011 and June 1, 2012, the bureau received more than 2,000 complaints to which the credit card companies responded with monetary relief, the CFPB said. The median amount was $130.

The financial services industry has been skeptical of the CFPB's submit-a-complaint system. The bureau has countered that the increased transparency would help the credit card and other consumer finance markets perform better.

"No one needs to be told there are deep problems in the consumer financial product marketplace," Cordray said in a press call Monday.

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