Lenders' outcry against CFPB 'narratives' is justified

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News.

It’s no wonder auto lenders cried foul last month when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced its plan to begin posting consumers’ first-person tales of their grievances with auto loans later this year.

Lender trade groups issued statements complaining that publishing unverified, and conceivably false, narratives online could not only harm lenders’ reputations unjustly, they could also provide consumers with erroneous information.

But the groups might not have weighed in so forcefully had all narratives been required to be associated with a formal complaint form, which would be forwarded to the lenders for resolution and, if desired, public response.

That isn’t the case, though. The CFPB is also soliciting stand-alone stories, with no related formal complaint.

Share your whole story, everyone will see it,” the bureau encourages on its site, consumerfinance.gov.

The CFPB says it won’t share stories with the public without permission. And it invites consumers to share their positive experiences with consumer financial products, too.

Unlike complaints, stories can be submitted anonymously. While a name and address are optional, though, it’s a required field for storytellers to check yes or no: “Is this something you saw while working for a financial company?”

That was bound to make the lenders sit up and take notice. And justifiably so.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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