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Coordinating Consumer Complaints

The Dodd-Frank Act requires the CFPB to share consumer complaint information with the FTC and other state and federal agencies. The goal is to make sure agencies coordinate their enforcement of consumer financial protection laws. Recently, we signed an agreement with the FTC that moves us one step closer to achieving that goal. The agreement allows the CFPB to access consumer complaints within the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel system. In addition, we will share complaint information that we receive from consumers with the Sentinel database, subject to appropriate privacy protections and access restrictions.

Consumer Sentinel helps law enforcement track and respond to consumer complaints. It is an online database of consumer complaints maintained by the FTC. The complaints in the database touch on many financial matters, from advance-fee loans to credit scams, from debt collection to credit reports, and more. The database is accessible only to law enforcement. The more good data that is included in it, the more effective it is as a tool.

Many entities, both government and non-government, already share complaints with Consumer Sentinel. Among the government entities are several state Attorneys General (including Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington State), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The non-governmental organizations include the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, MoneyGram International, the National Consumers League, Publishers Clearing House, Xerox Corporation, and the Better Business Bureaus. These organizations can add information to the database about problems people report to them. They do not have access to complaints submitted by law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement can then review all this information to learn more about the conditions facing consumers.

By participating in the Consumer Sentinel database, we hope to further enhance this already useful database for ourselves and for others. We can use the data to help make the market for financial products and services work better for consumers.

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