CFPB issues policy bulletin involving consumer reviews of banks & finance companies
An individual’s assessment about your finance company’s service now is getting greater attention from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, too.
The bureau recently issued policy guidance regarding potentially illegal practices related to consumer reviews. The CFPB said that it seeks to ensure that customers can write reviews — particularly ones posted online — about financial products and services that accurately reflect their opinions and experiences.
Officials said the guidance also highlights that practices such as posting fake reviews or inserting clauses that forbid a customer from publishing an honest review may violate the Consumer Financial Protection Act.
CFPB director Rohit Chopra said banks and financial companies should ensure that their customer review practices comply with all applicable laws, including the Consumer Financial Protection Act.
Violations are subject to civil penalties and other legal consequences, according to the CFPB.
“In America, no corporation should be able to silence a customer from posting an honest review online,” Chopra said in a news release. “Corporate disinformation campaigns that suppress legitimate reviews or manufacture fake reviews are not only a threat to free speech and fair competition, they are also illegal.”
The CFPB’s guidance describes certain business practices related to customer reviews that are generally unlawful under the Consumer Financial Protection Act, including:
— Contractual ‘gag’ clauses: Attempting to silence consumers from posting an online review can undermine fair competition, according to the bureau. Officials explained banks and financial companies that include clauses in form contracts that forbid a consumer from posting an honest review may be engaged in unfair or deceptive practices.
— Fake reviews: The CFPB said markets can be harmed if consumers cannot trust that online reviews are legitimate. Officials noted that laundering fake reviews in ways that appear completely independent from the company to improve their ratings may constitute a deceptive practice.
— Review suppression or manipulation: The bureau said consumers cannot easily shop and compare products and services when firms engage in practices to limit the posting of negative reviews or manipulate reviews to trick or confuse consumers. Officials pointed out the guidance explains why these practices may be unlawful.
The CFPB went on to mention this effort is related to the Federal Trade Commission’s efforts to deter fake reviews and related fraud across the digital economy.
The FTC recently voted to put hundreds of businesses on notice about fake reviews and misleading endorsements, which may result in significant penalties against marketers that engage in this misconduct.
The CFPB bulletin associated with consumer reviews can be found via this website.