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We participated in the National Day of Civic Hacking (again)

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Coders, technology enthusiast, economist, teachers, high school students, and entrepreneurs joined representatives from more than seven government agencies for the second annual National Day of Civic Hacking from May 31- June 1. The event was locally organized and held in Washington, D.C. to confront complex societal problems affecting our neighborhoods, communities, and country.

During the event, we participated and watched representatives from traditionally disconnected groups work together on some of the most pressing issues facing the local and federal government. We asked participants to analyze our public Consumer Complaint Database and our Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Database.

The challenge

We challenged the participants to come up with ways to empower consumers by building tools and visualizations using two of our databases: our consumer complaint database and our HMDA database. Since the launch of the complaint database in June 2012, the number of consumer complaints has increased rapidly, surpassing the 300,000 mark earlier this spring. The breadth of the database now includes complaints on seven categories of products, ranging from credit cards to mortgages. Further, the HMDA database contains 6 years’ worth of mortgage transaction data, approximately 112 million records. Together, these two data sets provide a strong and open foundation for the public to generate interesting data analysis and application.

During the event, we were able to answer questions from civic hackers interested in using the data to build visualizations and applications. Local students Andy Zhao, Derek Zhou, Joe Zhou, Joie Wang, Kyle Zhou, and Rachel Wu, used our publicly available data to build a visualization tool that demonstrated which products, issues, and companies consumers are complaining about, as well as the cities and towns where complaints are most prominent. Druv Sharma, Hui Hung Martin Dertz, and Neisan Massarrat, used the HMDA data to build maps that illustrate lending patterns with respect to gender. This is exactly the type of involvement we’re hoping for and illustrates the opportunities we have to expand this type of public engagement.

What’s next?

We hope to connect with other communities interested in engaging with our databases. We believe there are opportunities for coders, developers, and others with strong technical prowess to build innovative tools and applications that can enable consumers to live better financial lives.

Got a cool data project to share? Just tweet at @cfpb with #CFPBdata.

We’ve heard more than 300,000 complaints. Should we hear from you?

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We first began accepting complaints in July 2011 and as of this week – less than 3 years later – we’ve handled more than 300,000 complaints. That means when hundreds of thousands of people had a problem with a financial product or service, they came to us, and we worked to get them a response.

What kinds of complaints do you accept?

We accept complaints about a range of consumer financial products and services. If you have a problem with debt collection, credit reporting, payday loans, student loans, other consumer loans, money transfers, mortgages, or bank accounts and services, submitting a complaint is simple and secure.

How can I submit a complaint?

The fastest way to get started is to go consumerfinance.gov/complaint. If you need help while you’re online, you can chat with one of our team members on the site. You can also submit a complaint over the phone by calling us at (855) 411-CFPB (2372), toll free. We can handle calls in over 180 languages and accommodate people who are hearing or speech impaired.

What happens after I submit?

After you’ve submitted your complaint you can check its status online or by calling us at (855) 411-CFPB (2372). We’ll also send you email updates along the way so you know where you are in the process, and what’s next. After the company responds to your complaint, we’ll email you, and you can log back in to review the response and give us any feedback.

Every complaint helps us in our work to supervise companies, enforce federal consumer financial laws, and write better rules and regulations. You speaking up gives us important insight into the issues you face as a consumer, so thank you!

You can see what other consumers are complaining about in our public Consumer Complaint Database. If you think you’ve found something interesting in the consumer complaint data, we definitely want to hear about it. Don’t forget to share your work, from visualizations to new tools, by tweeting @CFPB and using #CFPBdata.

New tools to explore mortgage data

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Last fall, we released a web-based tool showing basic mortgage statistics for counties and cities across the country. Today, we are adding new features so you can explore the data in more flexible ways.

What are the new features?
The updated tool is loaded with features and flexibility. You can use the new features to analyze trends in your area or across the nation. Software developers can use our Application Programming Interface (API) to build their own tools.

  • Choose custom filters. You can choose to see only the data you want. Filter the data by geography (state, metropolitan area, county, and census tract), loan characteristics, property type, and more. We provide some suggested filters to help you get started.
  • Create custom summary tables. For example, you can compare refinances and home purchases over the past few years, or see county-level trends in federally related mortgages.
  • Download the data. Once you have the data you want, you can download it in the format of your choice. We offer CSV, which is compatible with most spreadsheet programs. We also offer JSON, JSONP, and XML, which are standards commonly used by software developers. You can also preview the first 100 records before you download the data.
  • Save and share results. Each query has a unique web address, so you can save and share your results. Just click on the “share” button to copy the link. Then, paste it into a document, an email, a Facebook post, a tweet, or anywhere else you’d like to share it.
  • Tools for developers. Software developers can use and contribute to our API. Software engineers and developers interested in improving the underlying Public Data Platform (aka, Qu) can get involved on GitHub. API developers who want to build tools using the API can browse the documentation, and if there are technical questions, you can engage with CFPB developers using GitHub issue tracking.

What kinds of information are in the data?
Our tool comes loaded with data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). HMDA requires certain banks and other financial institutions to collect, report, and publicly disclose information about mortgage loans and applications. In 2012, HMDA data included approximately 18.7 million records from 7,400 financial institutions. The data are publicly released every year, usually in September.

You can use our tool to explore information about loans, lenders, properties, and borrower demographics. For example, the data has information about the type of loan being made, such as whether it’s backed by a government program through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or Federal Housing Administration (FHA). It’s important to note that the data do not include direct identifying information, like names or Social Security numbers. To learn more, read our Privacy Impact Assessment.

Get started
If you are new to HMDA data, start with our introductory video. You’ll learn about the data, how it’s collected, why it’s useful, and what variables it contains. Then, check out our maps and charts. If you want to do your own analyses, you can explore the data. Software developers should check out our API and documentation.

Our new mortgage visualization tool

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Today, we’re launching a set of web-based tools to provide consumers with easier access to public mortgage data collected under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The new tools will help maximize the impact of this tremendous public dataset by providing a user-friendly tool to enable consumers to explore mortgage application and loan data at a local level.

What’s HMDA?

The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act or HMDA requires many financial institutions to maintain, report, and publicly disclose information about mortgages. HMDA was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 and the Dodd-Frank Act transferred HMDA rulemaking authority from the Federal Reserve Board to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2011. In 2012, HMDA data included approximately 18.7 million records from 7,400 financial institutions.

So why is this data important?

It can help show whether lenders are serving the housing needs of their communities. It gives public officials information that helps them make decisions and policies, and can shed light on lending patterns that could be discriminatory.

What exactly can I do with the new tool?

You’ll be able to explore the data using interactive maps and charts. Using the tool, you can see nationwide summaries or choose interactive features that allow you to isolate the data for any metropolitan area. You can easily explore millions of data points with these graphs and charts. The image below is an example of a map generated by the tool. The map shows that loan volumes were up in 2012 in most counties throughout the U.S. We’re committed to enhancing the functionality of the tool and will continue to release enhanced features over time.

2012 loan volumes change

We’re excited to see what you do, and encourage you – whether you’re a consumer, researcher, developer, or company – to explore the data using these new tools. Leave us a comment with your ideas or use #cfpbdata on Twitter.

Releasing complaint data about credit cards, mortgages, student loans, bank accounts, services, and other consumer loans

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What are you going to make with #CFPBdata?

Last summer, we launched our Consumer Complaint Database featuring data about credit card complaints.

Today, based on feedback from the public, we’re expanding it – and increasing the number of complaints from about 19,000 to more than 90,000. Here’s what we’re adding data about:

  • Mortgage complaints submitted since we started taking mortgage complaints on December 1st, 2011.
  • Complaints about bank accounts and services submitted since we started taking them on March 1st, 2012.
  • Private student loan complaints submitted since we started taking them on March 1st, 2012.
  • Complaints about other consumer loans (for example, if you got a loan to finance your daughter’s braces) submitted since we started taking them on March 1st, 2012.
  • More specificity about the product each complaint is about, where provided. For example, instead of just “mortgage,” you can see if the complaint is about a reverse mortgage or a conventional fixed mortgage, etc.

And we’re not satisfied quite yet – more expansions are coming. In the future, we’ll add even more products and improvements to the user experience.

The best part is: You don’t have to wait for us to build what you’d like to see from the data. We’re releasing this data as an API, as well as in CSV, JSON, PDF, RDF, RSS, XLS, XLSX, and XML – and we’d love to see what you can do with it.

From infographics to iPhone apps, we’ve seen people do amazing things with the credit card complaint data that was available before today.

If you think you’ve found something interesting in the consumer complaint data, we want to hear about it.

We encourage the public, including consumers, analysts, data scientists, civic hackers, and companies that serve consumers, to analyze, augment, and build on the information in the database to develop ways for consumers to use the complaint data or mash it up with other public data sets to reveal potential trends.

Share your work, from visualizations to new tools, by tweeting @CFPB using the hashtag #CFPBdata.

The Consumer Complaint Database is just another example of our support for an open-data agenda. Our Project Catalyst team also will be using this data to support innovation in the consumer finance space.

Scott Pluta is the Assistant Director for the Office of Consumer Response at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

p.s. As an example of what can be done with the data, we gave one of our staff a day to play with it in Microsoft Excel. Here’s what she came up with. Her example only goes to March 22, and as with the database itself, the data hasn’t been normalized, meaning that in many cases apples-to-apples comparisons can’t always be made. For example, companies with more customers could be expected to have more complaints. States with more people, likewise, would be expected to have more complaints.

Sharing consumer complaint data with state agencies

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We help consumers with complaints about credit cards, mortgages, student loans, checking accounts, savings accounts, credit reporting, bank services, and other consumer loans. Today, we’re announcing plans to share data from those complaints with state regulatory agencies.

This way, multiple government agencies can work on the consumer’s behalf without them having to file complaints with multiple agencies at different levels of government.

By providing real-time access to our growing database of consumer complaints, state government agencies will have a more complete picture of the markets for consumer financial product or services and be able to help more consumers in their state.

We’ll start by sharing our consumer complaints via a secure channel that protects the confidentiality of personally identifiable information. In the future, we’re planning on building ways to accept complaints and information from the agencies as well, and to make the data available to other federal agencies, state attorneys general, local agencies, congressional offices as appropriate, and other governmental organizations like the California Monitor (a program of the California Attorney General) and the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight.

What happens when I file a complaint?

When a consumer files a complaint, we screen it to make sure that it’s complete and not a duplicate of another complaint we’re already working on for that consumer. Next, we send it to the company in question and ask them to reply to the complaint within 15 days and expect them to close all but the most complicated complaints within 60 days. After the company responds, we publish a selection of the data (with information identifying the consumer removed) in our public Complaint Database.

The team that works on consumer complaints also works closely with other parts of the Bureau including our Division of Supervision, Enforcement, and Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity to address any potential violations of consumer law.

Our goal in sharing consumer complaints with state agencies is to enhance efficient, transparent, and effective government to better protect American consumers. This new capability is yet another example of the good government principles of cooperation and coordination in action. We look forward to continuing to deepen the already strong relationship we have with our partners.

Scott Pluta is the Assistant Director for the Office of Consumer Response at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.