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Helping more consumers use our services in other languages

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We’re working to reach more people with our services and information, and we could use your help.

About 24 million people in the United States say they don’t speak English “very well,” according to the Census Bureau. In this group, people are likely to be more comfortable with Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese), French, Haitian Créole, Tagalog, Korean, or Vietnamese—the most commonly spoken languages in the United States other than English. We know that financial products and services can be confusing even for native English speakers, and for those who primarily use another language, navigating the marketplace can be even harder.

We’re proposing a Language Access Plan, as part of our public commitment to providing services and information in languages other than English. With more information available in their native language, more people can avoid confusion, mistakes, and even fraud.

Our proposed Language Access Plan is now available for review and comment. In addition, you can provide feedback on specific areas where we want to connect with consumers who use a language other than English. Your input can help us improve how we:

  • Explain consumer protections
  • Provide access to our complaint system
  • Communicate during supervision and enforcement actions
  • Distribute consumer guides and tools
  • Use online communities and social media
  • Reach out through community organizations

You’re welcome to comment on our proposed Language Access Plan and related programs and activities until January 6, 2015. If you work with consumers who primarily use a language other than English, we encourage you to participate and share your comments.

Struggling private student loan borrowers are still searching for help

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In the years leading up to the financial crisis, many of the same subprime lending practices that led to troubles in the mortgage market also existed in the private student loan market. Like the homeowners who turned to their mortgage servicer to modify their loans but ran into customer service dead ends, lost paperwork and other breakdowns, many private student loan borrowers are looking for a clear path to stay current and avoid default.

Today we’re releasing a new report summarizing complaints from private student loan borrowers about difficulties faced when working with a lender or servicer to avoid default.

While federal student loans have a number of loan modification options to help borrowers avoid default, private student loan servicers and lenders may not make it easy for borrowers to get help in times of distress, which may have consequences for not only your financial future, but also for the broader economy.

For example, our analysis of complaints reveals that many of you tried to find out more information by calling your lender or servicer, but received conflicting or inaccurate information as you were bounced between call center staff. Many of you told us how you were provided no option at all, driving you into default, even though a reduced payment plan might be in the best interest of both you and your lender.

Request for repayment options

After listening to you and to the student loan industry, we’ve developed some advice for borrowers who want accurate information on alternative repayment plans and loan modification options, including a set of instructions that you can consider sending to your private student loan servicer (the company that sends a bill each month).

You can download the sample letter and mail it to your lender or servicer, or you can use the text below to provide instructions using the “Send a Message” or “Contact Us” feature when you log into your account on the servicer’s website.

Although some companies are willing to help borrowers during a time of financial distress, unfortunately, not all private student loan companies offer assistance when consumers are struggling to repay their loans. Using this letter may help you get a clear answer and avoid long hold times and transfers from one call center representative to another.

I am writing to you because I need to reduce my monthly private student loan payment due to a financial hardship. I am requesting a payment that allows me to meet my other necessary living expenses.

Please conduct a review of my account to determine whether I am eligible for an alternative repayment plan.

[This paragraph is optional] I believe I can afford to pay $____ per month toward my loan(s). If you require details on my monthly income and expenses, I have attached a worksheet which you can use to make an evaluation.

If you require additional authorization in order to reduce the amount of my monthly payment, please consider this letter a written request that you contact my lender or other authorized party to conduct a review of my account and provide a response within 15 days of receipt of this letter.

If you do not grant this request for a reduced payment plan, I will be at risk of default. If I receive a reduced payment plan, I may be able to avoid default, which is in the best interest of all parties.

If you determine that you are unwilling to provide a reduced payment plan, please provide the following information:

  • What available reduced payment options do you offer other than forbearance?
  • For what reason(s) am I ineligible for these repayment programs?
  • If I am not eligible for these repayment programs, when will I become eligible?
  • What steps do I need to take to qualify for these repayment programs?
  • Do you anticipate modifying these repayment programs in the future?
  • Where on your website can I find additional information on these alternative repayment programs?

In addition, if you are unable to provide any of the information or documentation I have requested or otherwise cannot comply with this request, please provide an explanation.

I hope we will be able to agree upon an acceptable repayment plan.

Thank you for your cooperation.

These instructions may help you get valuable information on repayment options to reduce your monthly payment or to temporarily postpone making payments. You can also download a sample financial worksheet that you can use to determine the maximum amount of money you can put toward student loans.

Some student loan companies have told us that they may ask for recent pay stubs or a bank statement to verify income and expenses. Consider including these documents with your request, which you can mail or send through your private student loan servicer’s website after you login.

We also have other sample letters you can send to your student loan servicer to give payment instructions or request that your co-signer be released and others you can send to a student loan debt collector.

If you’re experiencing a problem with a student loan or debt collection, you can submit a complaint online or call us at (855) 411-2372.

If you have questions about repaying student loans, check out our Repay Student Debt tool to find out how you can tackle your student loan debt.

Rohit Chopra is the CFPB’s Student Loan Ombudsman. To learn more about our work for students and young Americans, visit consumerfinance.gov/students.

We’re open to innovative approaches to benefit consumers

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Take a look around and you’ll see that the consumer financial marketplace is experiencing constant and rapid change. New technologies and insights can impact the way we borrow, save, transact, and receive information we need about finances. This environment can pose benefits and risks to consumers. Consumer-friendly innovation can drive down costs, improve transparency, and make people’s lives better. On the other hand, new products can also pose unexpected risks to consumers through dangers such as hidden costs or confusing terms.

Our focus is on making financial markets work for American consumers — we want a marketplace where the costs and risks are clear, and no consumer is harmed by unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices.

In addition to establishing strong consumer protections and holding bad actors accountable, we also want to support marketplace innovation so that new and emerging products that are safe and beneficial for consumers can be developed. We do not want regulations to unnecessarily limit consumer-friendly developments.

We’re open to new ideas that benefit consumers. So we’re publishing for comment a proposal for a limited No-Action Letter policy. The goal is simple: create a process to reduce the regulatory uncertainty that may exist for certain emerging product or services which stand to benefit consumers. To get all the details, you’ll need to review the proposed policy. But let me try to break it down and share the highlights.

Overview

This proposed policy is suited for new financial products or services where there may be uncertainty about how they fit in the existing statutes and regulations. Of course, such products or services must hold the promise for significant consumer benefit.

The proposed policy would allow our staff to send a No-Action Letter to a company that tells them the staff isn’t planning to recommend initiation of supervisory or enforcement action with respect to specific aspects of a particular legal requirement in connection with a firm’s offering or provision of a new product as described to the Bureau. A No-Action Letter can be revoked, and it may be limited by time, volume, or in other ways.

The proposed policy would not be a waiver of any law or regulation, and it doesn’t give a requesting entity an exemption from complying with any statutory or regulatory rules. It also would not spell out our official interpretation of a statutory or regulatory requirement. What it would mean is that, subject to some limitations, our staff would not recommend initiating supervisory or enforcement action against the requester with respect to the provisions specified in the letter. It would not, however, prevent any other regulator or person from asserting that the product violated legal requirements.

How it works

Under the proposed policy, the No-Action Letter would not be an available tool unless the applicant shows the product holds the promise of substantial consumer benefit. As part of the application process, we would require an applicant to thoroughly demonstrate the characteristics of the proposed product, how it will work, and what consumer risks are involved. An applicant will need to explain exactly what regulatory uncertainty exists and how that uncertainty interferes with the development of the product. In addition, the applicant will need to demonstrate what consumer safeguards are in place and how consumer interests and safety will be monitored.

How to work with us

There would be a formal application process as laid out in the proposed policy, but interested stakeholders would also be advised to reach out to our Project Catalyst team to initiate a preliminary discussion about their ideas. We anticipate that No-Action Letters would be issued infrequently and they would be issued in the staff’s sole discretion only after the applicant makes a thorough and persuasive demonstration that all the policy’s criteria, including the likely provision of consumer benefit, are met.

Check out the proposed policy for the details and you can submit comments until December 15, 2014. Comments on this blog post will not be accepted as official comments on the proposed policy.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Updated October 17, 2014 to include link to submit comments online and Federal Register notice.

Know Before You Owe: Proposed updates to TILA-RESPA final rule

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Nearly a year ago, we issued the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule. Many of you know this work as Know Before You Owe and we’ve been talking about it for a while now.

Today, we’re issuing a proposal to modify and make technical amendments to this rule. The rule introduced new, easier-to-use mortgage disclosure forms that clearly lay out the terms of a mortgage for consumers. The new Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure mortgage forms will replace the existing federal disclosures and help consumers understand their options, choose the deal that’s best for them, and avoid costly surprises at the closing table.

Proposed changes

There are two issues we’re addressing in today’s proposal.

First, we’re proposing to give creditors some extra time to provide consumers with revised Loan Estimates after a consumer locks a floating interest rate. Under the current rule, when consumers lock their interest rates, creditors are required to give them a revised Loan Estimate the same day. After considering feedback from stakeholders on this requirement, we think that such a short turnaround may be challenging for creditors that currently allow consumers to lock interest rates late in the day or after business hours. This could result in creditors only allowing consumers to lock interest rates during business hours or even early in the day (e.g., before noon). We’re proposing to give creditors until the next business day to provide the revised disclosures, which we believe should provide creditors with enough time to provide new disclosures without having to reduce flexibility that consumers may have today in locking their rates.

Second, we’re proposing a minor addition on the Loan Estimate form. Construction loans often take longer to settle than other loans, and the estimated charges can change when more than 60 days pass. Our proposal would create a space on the Loan Estimate form where creditors could include language informing consumers that they may receive a revised Loan Estimate for a construction loan that is expected to take more than 60 days to settle.

We determined that these issues are important and may significantly affect implementation planning and decisions.

Throughout the Know Before You Owe project, feedback has been an important part of the process. This step is no different. We welcome your comments on this proposal, so submit them by November 10, 2014. We’ll update this post with a link to submit comments on Regulations.gov when it’s published in the Federal Register.

Effective date

The effective date for the TILA-RESPA rule is still August 1, 2015. We’re proposing these changes now so that there’s plenty of time to consider these changes while implementation decisions are being made, and we do not think that the proposed changes will affect the industry’s ability to implement the rules on time.

Implementing the rules

As part of our work to support the implementation of our rules, we have regulatory implementation resources available including compliance guides, sample Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure forms, and a calendar showing timing requirements based on a sample real estate transaction.

Save the date, Long Beach!

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Join us for a joint FTC/CFPB roundtable entitled, “Debt Collection and the Latino Community,” which will examine how debt collection and credit reporting issues affect Latino consumers, especially those who have limited English proficiency (LEP). The event will take place on October 23, 2014 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at:

Grand Ballroom at the University Student Union
California State University, Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90840

The roundtable will bring together consumer advocates, industry representatives, state and federal regulators, and academics to exchange information on a range of issues.

This event is open to the public, but registration is encouraged. To register, send an email with your name and affiliation.

A livestream of the event will also be available here on our blog.

If you need an accommodation to participate, you can make a request.

See you there!

The CFPB blog aims to facilitate conversations about our work. We want your comments to drive this conversation. Please be courteous, constructive, and on-topic. To help make the conversation productive, we encourage you to read our comment policy before posting. Comments on any post remain open for seven days from the date it was posted.