by Broderick Perkins
(12/8/2012) Erate Exclusive - The busy Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), racking up an initially impressive record in consumer protection, now has credit card issuers in its sights.
While digging into mortgage reform, reverse mortgages, credit scores, student loans, among other financial services areas, the federal consumer watchdog is also barking up the tree at credit card issuers.
The agency, at ConsumerFinance.gov, has accomplished more in six months to protect consumers than legislators during a full session of Congress.
Throw that dog a bone. This puppy reveals it isn't that difficult to see in the dark. Now if those Occupiers would just pay attention and consider CFPB's efforts as a focused rallying point.
CFPB is living up to its challenge to champion consumer advocacy for the nation's 99 Percenters, the majority of whom are hard-working consumers whose spending -- even crippled spending -- is the premium fuel that really powers the economy.
It all speaks volumes of mostly Republican legislators who want to defang the newly unleashed agency created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) with extensive powers aimed at protecting consumers in the financial services market.
In the credit card arena, CFPB recently issued a report "Consumer Response: Interim Report on CFPB's Credit Card Complaint Data" on its first three months of collecting credit card complaint data.
"When consumers contact us, we get a snapshot of how the consumer finance markets are working," said Raj Date, Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the CFPB.
"And we are learning that there is a lot of consumer confusion about credit card terms. We will continue to work with consumers, credit card companies, government agencies, and others to improve consumer education and ensure CFPB's regulation, supervision, and enforcement efforts are effective," Date said.
The preliminary report makes three observations:
• Confusion reigns - Consumers are struggling to understand the credit card terms and related products like debt-collection services.
"These complaints show a mismatch between consumer expectations and the way the product functions," the report found.
• Fraud creeps in - CFPB is already helping some consumers obtain redress for fraudulent third-party credit card charges. In some cases, CFPB has called in federal and other criminal authorities to investigate on behalf of consumers.
• Errors in fact - Credit card issuers are willing to resolve a large volume of complaints involving factual disputes between consumers and issuers.
Since CFPB opened in July, more than 5,000 consumers complained to it about credit cards.
Companies reported resolving more than 3,100, with consumers disputing the adequacy of the responses in only 400 cases, or less than 13 percent of the time.
The preliminary report provides a breakdown of complaints by type, as well as by their progress through the complaint handling system.
Credit card consumers also contacted the CFPB for reasons other than to submit complaints. More than half of those calls were general inquires or feedback on credit card issues.
Along with remaining open to credit card complaints, the CFPB is asking the public to comment on its proposed policy for disclosing certain credit card complaint data.
The CFPB will, as required by federal law, provide Congress with semi-annual public reports about the complaints it has handled. The data will be configured to allow anyone to analyze it for patterns and trends.
The agency is open to credit card comments from the public until January 30, 2012.