New Interactive, User-Friendly Database Answers Consumers’ Questions in Plain Language
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) launched Ask CFPB, an interactive online tool that will help consumers find clear, unbiased answers to their financial questions.
“Financial markets can be complex and confusing, and consumers need information they can count on,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Ask CFPB gives consumers answers in plain language so they can make sound financial decisions. But today’s launch is just the beginning – we will continue to grow and improve this dynamic tool with the invaluable public feedback we receive.”
Intuitively designed, Ask CFPB is a user-friendly experience. As soon as a consumer begins typing in a question, the database’s autocomplete feature begins to provide various search suggestions. Users can also browse product categories and tags. From any search page, they can narrow their choices by specific topics, such as “fees” or “closing,” or by populations, like servicemembers, students, and older Americans.
Ask CFPB currently contains more than 350 easy-to-read, plain-language entries written by the Bureau’s subject-matter experts. Consumers can view entries organized by “most helpful,” “most viewed,” or “recently updated.” The majority of the entries are focused on credit card and mortgage questions. In the coming months, the Bureau will expand the database to answer questions about a range of financial products and services, including student loans, auto loans, and checking and savings accounts.
Ask CFPB contains three general categories of questions and answers:
- Definitions: Consumers are often confronted with financial products and terms described in highly technical industry jargon. The Ask CFPB tool translates the jargon by providing consumers with clear, plain language definitions that help them better understand and navigate the marketplace. Using the tool, consumers can get answers to questions like, “What is a credit report?” or “What is a reverse mortgage?”
- Explanations: Financial products can include many complicated terms and features and it can be difficult for consumers to understand how they work. The Ask CFPB tool provides consumers with general information on and explanations of terms and features of financial products. An example of this type of question is: “My bill shows different APRs and shows how much of the balance is subject to each interest rate. I cannot figure out how this is calculated. How does that work?”
- Situations: Consumers frequently find themselves at a disadvantage interacting with financial service providers that have more information about and experience with the products they are offering. The Ask CFPB tool provides information and tips to consumers to help them navigate various situations. For example, a consumer can use to the tool to ask, “What if my lender quoted me one rate at application but raised it at closing?”
The answers to all of the questions in the database will be coordinated with the answers consumers receive when they use the CFPB’s Consumer Response complaint system. Currently, about 40 percent of all Consumer Response interactions with the CFPB are from people looking for clarification about terms or processes, rather than lodging a complaint. Ask CFPB will be an invaluable tool for addressing such questions.
Ask CFPB also gives consumers the opportunity to provide feedback through various interactive components:
- Rating System: Users can rate an answer “Helpful,” “Too long,” “Confusing,” or “Incorrect.”
- Submission of a Question: If they have a question they would like to see in the database, they can submit it for consideration. Consumers can also opt in to personal communication with their Bureau if their question is considered.
- Sharing Helpful Answers: Users can also share an answer they found helpful with their friends by email or on Facebook or Twitter.
- Full CFPB Integration: While reading the entries, users will find relevant links that allow them to share their story with a given financial product or to submit a complaint about a given financial product to the Bureau.
The Ask CFPB tool is available at: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.