The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Response staff has been reorganized and cut during the past three years—moves that could affect the agency’s handling of consumer complaints that have skyrocketed during the pandemic, the CFPB’s Inspector General said in a report issued last week.
The Consumer Response office was moved structurally twice and ended up in the newly created Division of Consumer Education and External Affairs, the IG said, in a report on the management challenges the CFPB faces.
“These moves may affect the management of consumer complaints, particularly as the Bureau has redistributed some of Consumer Response’s resources to other divisions,” the IG said.
The consumer group, PIRG, recently said that it had examined the agency’s consumer complaint database and had discovered that the number of complaints filed during the pandemic have soared. PIRG reported that there were 277,366 complaints filed with the CFPB in 2019; that number increased drastically to 444,551 in 2020.
“With an increase in consumer complaints and ongoing organizational shifts, Consumer Response faces an operational risk with respect to the timeliness in which it can respond to consumer complaints,” the CFPB’s IG said.
Still, the Consumer Response staff told the IG that the division can handle the number of complaints but acknowledged that there may be “operational challenges” if the number of complaints remains high for an extended period of time.
In a separate report, the IG said that it is conducting an audit of the agency’s effectiveness in responding to consumer complaints.