OK, you’ve just poured your third cuppa and plopped yourself down in front of your computer to clear the latest crop of emails. After reading and erasing a few, including a notice that you’ve won the Irish Sweepstakes, and that your prize is on the way if you’ll just send the $1,000 bank fee to cover the paperwork, you get to this one (at right):
Yikes! Actually, double yikes!
Attached to the email is a seven-page, 20-question form to be filled out, and each question has multiple parts. Ironically, the final page contains a Paperwork Reduction Act Statement. Don’t tell me your government doesn’t have a sense of humor.
I had not seen one of these nastygrams before, and sent it along to my partner, Michael Benoit, in case he was also unfamiliar with this process. Both Michael and I have talked with many dealers about the plusses and minuses of signing up for the CFPB’s Complaint Portal before they received complaints or a notice like this one, and I knew he’d be interested.
“I’ve not seen the Bureau reaching out to a lot of small players, but I think their M.O. now is that if they get a complaint, they send an invitation to join the Portal,” Michael said in response. “The upside is that any complaints get forwarded to you to resolve. The downside is that any complaints get forwarded to you to resolve. Most of the clients I’ve dealt with have chosen to sign up, with the warning that they will need to be responsive to any complaints that get directed to them through the Portal. I expect they keep track of folks who don’t sign up, and I suspect that’s played a part in their decision to issue CIDs to some of the small business owners we have represented.”
So, if you’re the lucky recipient of one of these, check with your lawyer, but we think it’s likely that he or she will say, “Forget the plusses and minuses. They’ve identified you as a target and have you in their sights. Time to sign up.” And after you sign up, make sure that you know the CFPB’s rules for responding to complaints and that you respond to any complaints in accordance with the rules.
Thomas B. Hudson is a partner in the firm of Hudson Cook LLP and the author of several widely read compliance manuals. Email him at [email protected].