Economic News

Consumers want financial protection agency

(05/26/2010) As the Obama Administration inches closer to creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a recent survey reveals consumers anxiously await and approve of passage of the Restoring American Financial Stability Act which will create the new federal agency.

Considered the greatest overhaul of consumer protections in history, the new law will be designed to empower and protect American families, subject lenders and other financial institutions to tougher oversight, strengthen small businesses and curb excessive risk taking on Wall Street.

The Senate recently passed its long-awaited version of the law and now groups of lawmakers in both legislative bodies are working to negotiate a final bill to be voted on by both chambers before going to the President.

The process is expected to take at least a month.

Meanwhile, AARP recently commissioned "Consumer Financial Protection: Opinion of People Aged 50+," a nationwide survey to understand public opinion on consumer financial protection issues.

The survey was conducted by Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) for AARP from January 14 to January 24, 2010, among a nationally representative sample of 815 respondents at least 50 years old.

The results reveal nearly unanimous support for numerous consumer financial protections. Support was high across political parties and throughout all regions of the country.

• Almost all respondents (96 percent) favor requiring banks to explain the terms and conditions of loans, including mortgages and credit card debt, in plain language people can understand.

• More than 9 in 10 (93 percent) favor requiring companies that manage 401(k) retirement plans to explain the fees they charge to participants and to clearly state those fees on participants' annual statements.

• Overall, 93 percent favor enabling consumers to check an investment advisor's record to see whether they have any prior violations or have been charged with professional misconduct.

• Ninety-two percent favor requiring investment companies to disclose the costs, risks, and benefits of all the financial products they market and sell using plain language and a user-friendly format.

• Overall, 90 percent favor holding financial salespeople who engage in deceptive marketing accountable.

• Almost 9 in 10 (89 percent) favor protecting people from predatory lending practices, such as excessive fees and penalties, on products ranging from mortgages to credit cards.

• Two-thirds (66 percent) favor allowing states to enact consumer protection laws that are stronger than federal law -- as many states now do.

• Approximately six in ten people (59 percent) do not think people and banks that sell financial products always make sure the product is suitable for the individual buying it.

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