Balancing consumer protection with the precepts of a market economy has been much in the public eye of late, and recent events around the leadership of the U.S. Government’s efforts have done little to calm the discussion. That said, with the concentrated power of the large financial institutions driving much of the policy, making sure there is a fair and equitable way to bring grievances to the attention of public officials is seen as important, especially by consumer advocates. But the way to do so remains an open for debate. That author of the article draws the battle lines this way:
The companies’ lobbyists argue that publishing the data isn’t fair. For one, the CFPB verifies only the consumer’s relationship to the company, not the substance of the complaint. Also, the news media don’t always put the data into the proper context: Companies that are bigger, deal with more retail consumers or engage in contentious lines of business (debt collectors, for example) will inevitably receive more complaints. In any case, disgruntled customers represent a small fraction of the total.
That’s all worth keeping in mind. Still, the database provides a valuable resource. It can reveal significant differences in customer service among companies in the same line of business. Across industries, outsize complaint rates can be indicative of deeper problems — particularly in areas such as debt collection, where people typically don’t choose to become a company’s customers.
Mercator Advisory Group recognizes there are no easy answers when attempting to balance consumer protections with business efficiencies. The art and science that go into crafting rules that the majority of market participants are able to live with is no easy task. The author does well in bringing to light the idea that providing a proven and accessible venue for consumers to report instances of wrongdoing can help to rebuild trust in our financial institutions and magnify economic expansion.
Overview by Joseph Walent, Associate Director, Customer Interactions Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group
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