So apparently some credit card companies are tied up in knots because the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has put up a database allowing customers to search and see what kinds of complaints customers have.
As USA Today recently reported, the credit card issuers beef is that "there's no assurance that the complaints aren't frivolous -- or even that the person complaining is an actual customer." The paper quoted Carol Kaplan, a spokesperson for the American Bankers Association, saying, "Until somebody has had a chance to sort through it and figure out what's valid and invalid, it's a gossip column."
Please. The credit card companies are worried over nothing. Having just gone through the CFPB's database, I can tell you -- it's the most boring gossip column ever.
I went into that database, frankly, really excited, thinking I'd pull up some really juicy tales of credit card payments gone amok, but the site is just full of charts, graphs and reams of data with only sparse information.
I'm not faulting the CFPB. Some information is better than nothing, and if they had created the type of database with the gory but perhaps unfounded details involving identity theft or APRs gone sky high that would have interested me, I suppose the ABA spokesperson would have been correct, and it wouldn't be a responsible database. But sifting through information and learning that a Bank of America credit card customer had an issue with getting his or her account closed in June of 2012, or that another had a billing dispute with B of A, well… so what? Citibank, Discover, JP Morgan Chase, GE Capital Retail, Capital One, American Express, Barclays, Wells Fargo -- everyone has the occasional complaint listed.
After all, what are the odds that a credit card company, or any major giant company, isn't going to, on any given day even, have some customers with some gripes?
Now, if this were 1998, and the idea of saying something negative about a company -- online, where everyone can see it! OMG! -- was still pretty novel, maybe I'd feel the credit card companies should be panicky and playing taps, but at this point, virtually every company in existence has negative information out there online. Certainly, if a product or service is bombarded with grievances from customers, and there's rarely a good word out there, it's instructive to a consumer, but if I didn't do business with every company, especially large corporations, that had a few complaints out there online, I wouldn't buy anything. You can't buy a house, a car, a TV -- even a book -- without someone commenting on it, positively or negatively, online.
Customers are a pretty savvy lot. We get that, especially with credit cards, which is always going to ignite passion since it involves money, there are always going to be some instances where the financial transaction isn't a delightful experience for someone. The devil is always in the details, though, and I'm pretty sure the main question in our minds, is that if a problem does arise, is the problem dealt with and fixed by the credit card issuer? And the CFPB does address that as well, listing a "yes" when an issue has been resolved, and if credit card companies take the long view, they may come to see this database as a good thing if it becomes apparent to consumers that some cards are better at resolving problems than others.
That is, assuming a lot of people check out the database, which I kind of doubt.
Seriously, I've looked it over pretty thoroughly -- and so far, it's kind of a yawnfest. Gripping reading, it's not. Informative? A bit. It's a nice start -- as one commenter at the web site noted -- but there will have to be a lot more information in here before credit card companies need to wring their collective hands over this database.