This week is National Consumer Protection Week. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other federal agencies participate in this week to help consumers safely navigate the markets for consumer products and services. This means also providing consumers with tools and resources to help them make better-informed decisions when confronted with an often-dizzying array of options.
At the CFPB, we are specifically focused on protecting consumers of financial products and services like credit cards, mortgages, student loans, and checking accounts. While you might use financial products like these every day, making informed choices about them can be tough. Sometimes, it might not even feel like you have a choice. Too many financial services products come with complex terms buried in pages of fine print, making it hard for borrowers to compare one product to two or three others. Financial terms can be confusing, and what you’ll ultimately pay – and what you are risking – is often not clear.
Last year during National Consumer Protection Week, we told you we would work hard to make consumer financial products and services easier to understand, and to make the markets for them more fair, transparent, and competitive.
Since the agency officially launched in July, here’s some of what we’re doing for you, as consumers:
We’re taking your complaints. We started with credit cards, moved on to mortgages, and now have the ability to take your complaints about a wide range of financial products and services provided by banks and credit unions.
We launched our supervision program. We are responsible for supervising not just banks, but also other financial businesses, such as payday lenders, mortgage companies, private student lenders, and others – collectively known as nonbanks. We will visit these businesses to make sure they are following the law and assess risks to consumers.
We adopted a rule to increase protections for consumers who transfer money internationally. One of our jobs is to write rules that tell financial institutions how to follow the law. This regulation will help protect consumers who send money electronically to another country.
We’re developing tools to help you make better financial decisions. Our Student Debt Repayment Assistant helps people with student loans determine their repayment options. We’re also working to provide educational materials to service providers working directly with consumers in their communities. Nearly 5,200 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) locations around the country received materials from us that they can use to help encourage taxpayers to save some of their 2011 federal income tax refunds.
We’re looking out for you. All finance is personal, but some populations have unique needs. Staff from our offices for older Americans, servicemembers, and students are out in the field gathering information and looking out for consumers’ interests.
We’ve come a long way in the past year, but there’s still a lot to be done. That’s why we continue to seek your input on our ongoing efforts – we want to hear your voice as we make decisions. Together, we can make your experience with financial products better, so I encourage you to participate: