CFPB Ombudsman Suggests Improvements for CFPB

On December 3rd, the CFPB Ombudsman’s Office released its second annual report. The CFPB Ombudsman’s Office’s goal is to informally assist the CFPB in resolving process issues by assisting all of the stakeholders. In its report this year, the Ombudsman’s Office addresses improvement of process issues such as the ways the CFPB shares information; the examination process and experiences that financial entities have with it; and the caller experience with the CFPB contact center. The majority of the individual inquiries received were from consumers and were connected to the products, processes, entities and services under the CFPB’s jurisdiction. Many of these inquiries were about the consumer complaint process as the consumers did not understand completely how it worked. The Ombudsman recommended that the CFPB’s Office of Consumer Response provides frequently asked questions on CFPB’s website (consumerfinance.gov) and further clarify information in correspondence to consumers. As is stated in the report, with this increased transparency in communications “consumers know what to expect from most of the process.”

Contact center and the caller experience was another big topic discussed in the report as 7% of individual complaints addressed this topic. The CFPB’s contact center is used by the public to submit a consumer complaint, provide feedback, ask questions and learn more about the CFBP. Consumers mainly complained that they didn’t receive requested information. Based on these complaints, the Ombudsman specified several areas where more information would be helpful, such as describing the CFPB’s authority. Consumer Response accepted these recommendations on the contact center and suggested meeting monthly to receive the Ombudsman’s feedback.

Financial entities expressed their concerns regarding the CFPB’s supervisory examinations and suggested the following recommendations: further clarifying what a financial entity may expect during an examination; sharing how a financial entity may elevate the examination process by providing information on who composes the examination team; clarifying what may be expected during the examination cycle by: “including citations to the examination manual in written communications to a financial entity, where relevant; describing in the opening letter the document an entity may expect at the end of the examination process; reaching back to inform the entity of the examination status at regular intervals after the conclusion of the onsite portion of the examination; and co-locating the appeals bulletin with the examination manual on consumerfinance.gov.”

The Ombudsman also noted that last year its office recommended the CFPB review the presence of Enforcement Attorneys and a few months later the CFPB eliminated this practice entirely. Going forward, the Ombudsman developed an 18-24 month strategic plan that included goals such as to: - Develop and implement an effective outreach strategy to engage both external and internal stakeholders; - Provide specific deliverables to inform stakeholders of the work the Ombudsman’s Office does; - Streamline internal workflow processes to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of Ombudsman; - Develop Ombudsman resources to offer various options to address common concerns.

To learn more about the CFPB’s Ombudsman’s office report and recommendations, please contact Joseph Messer at jmesser@messerstrickler.com, or by calling Joe at (312) 334-3440.