WASHINGTON — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will begin publishing credit card complaints Tuesday in a searchable database, allowing the public for the first time to scrutinize the way individual banks handle complaints.

Industry groups have warned that consumer complaints are subjective, unverified and irrelevant, and said identifying the banks involved serves no public policy, but could significantly harm their reputation. Some even suggested the bureau doesn't have the legal authority to release such detailed data.

But agency officials defended the release of the information (pdf), which Director Richard Cordray said will be easily searchable and widely available to consumers.

"We believe the disclosure of this data not only serves the public interest, but promotes the advancement of the free market system," Cordray said on a conference call with reporters Monday. "Anyone with access to the Web will be able to review and analyze the information and draw their own conclusions."

The agency also released a snapshot (pdf) Monday of the complaints it has gathered – more than 45,000 since July 21, 2011 – and it published a notice seeking comment on adding other types of complaints to the database, which will go live at 8 a.m.

CFPB began taking credit card complaints as soon as it became an independent agency, and added mortgage complaints in December. In March, it began accepting complaints for other bank products and services, including private student loans, auto loans and other consumer loans.

In comment letters issued earlier this year, industry groups complained that the data – which will be updated daily through the database – is unreliable. They also urged the bureau not to disclose the names of card issuers, claiming it could unfairly harm those issuers.

Read the full story at AmericanBanker.com.

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