Economic News

New consumer finance bureau opens to criticism

(02/15/2011) A new federal government agency for consumers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is live and online and what it should do and be is already a matter of criticism.

Loaded with mortgage and consumer credit rules and empowered by powerful"Wall Street Reform" law, the new Federal Reserve-based watchdog was created to ensure consumers get clear and accurate information necessary to shop for mortgages, credit cards and other financial products. It also protects consumers from hidden fees, predatory terms and deception.

The Center for Responsible Lending, in a brief to Congress says the health of the economy is based on the new agency's initiatives because consumer spending comprises 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

"Restoring consumer confidence and demand for products is vital to creating jobs. This is more likely to happen if consumers know that the financial marketplace is fair and safe for everyone. In addition, small businesses -- which create 80 percent of our nation's new jobs -- rely heavily on non-bank credit and need access to low-cost, fair credit to grow," according to the brief by CRL's Susanna Montezemolo.

"Business leaders who care about the long-term success of their companies and our country understand that a healthy economy is based on earnings, savings, trustworthy credit and fair competition -- not on ripping off American families and businesses," she writes.

Inadequate regulation that allowed toxic mortgages helped fuel the current crisis and inadequate reform will assure a repeat," says Tim Duncan of the American Business Leaders for Financial Reform.

CFL says the CFPB should create transparent access for consumers to financial markets, products, and services that are fair, transparent, and competitive.

This means:

• Ensuring consumers have timely and understandable information.

• Prohibiting unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices.

• Identifying and addressing outdated or burdensome regulation.

• Promoting efficient, competitive markets for consumer financial products.

• CFPB scope of activity should include rulemaking, supervision and enforcement of traditional regulatory responsibilities, now consolidated in one agency versus scattered among several.

• Providing consumer financial education programs that give consumers a better understanding of their choices. Investigation of consumer complaints to improve consumers' experience in financial markets and gathering information on business trends and practices.

• Financial markets gathering data to help inform decision-making by businesses, consumers, and regulators with a special focus on key consumer segments including seniors and military service members.

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