On March 28, 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) expanded its Consumer Complaint Database (CCD) to include complaints involving mortgages, student loans, bank services, and other types of loans. The expansion also features added specificity about each complaint; such as the type of mortgage involved. The CFPB launched the CCD last year with data relating to credit card complaints. The new database allows consumers to view over 90,000 complaints, up from 19,000 available before the expansion.

It is not clear what the CFPB expects citizen-consumers to do with all the data. On its website, the CFPB suggests that the possibilities are endless. “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.”

At the very least, the database does provide consumers with a relatively easy way to investigate a company. For example, if a consumer is considering a mortgage with a particular bank, it is easy to check the database to see that bank has a bad record. However, the database does not tell the whole story--complaints could be filed in bad faith, and of course, giant lenders will have more complaints filed against them than smaller ones.

Will the database be useful for attorneys? With so little particular data available on the database, it may not be of much use. The identity of the complaint-filers is secret and only a zip code connects the complaint to a geographical area. So the database is not a good way to connect attorneys litigating similar issues, for instance. Nevertheless, the data is out there and the lenders know that they are being watched. And that can only be good for consumers.