- The CFPB is a federal regulator that ensures that consumer financial markets work for everyone.
- The CFPB handles consumer complaints about companies and financial products.
- The CFPB has a solid library of documents to help you make better financial decisions.
- Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.
If you’ve ever felt frustrated when dealing with a financial services company that doesn’t seem sensitive to your situation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, may be able to help.
The CFPB is an agency responsible for implementing and enforcing federal consumer finance regulations and ensuring that markets for consumer financial products are fair, transparent and competitive. It was created by Congress under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.
Created in the wake of the 2007-2008 subprime mortgage crisis, the CFPB is designed to be a central agency that enables better enforcement of laws and regulations, particularly in how financial laws affect consumers. This means that you can submit financial complaints directly to the CFPB and you will not be embarrassed, whereas previously you might have been referred to one of the many other bodies.
How does the CFPB protect consumers?
The CFPB aims to promote fairness and transparency in consumer financial products, such as mortgages, credits and other loans or services. The rules established by the CFPB allow financial firms to compete for a consumer’s business on an equal footing. These rules also allow the consumer to clearly see the terms and conditions of the product or service they are requesting, which greatly facilitates price comparison.
The CFPB is structured as an independent office within the Federal Reserve. It was created as a measure of the Dodd-Frank Act to implement and enforce federal consumer financial products and services law. The Dodd-Frank Act also gave the CFPB expanded powers to provide fair and transparent information to help consumers make the best financial decisions.
Prior to the creation of the CFPB, the authority to enforce consumer financial protection laws and regulations was divided among seven different federal agencies. The CFPB consolidated this power into a single organization to increase government accountability. The main goal of the organization is to help financial markets work for everyone.
The CFPB takes enforcement action against individuals or organizations that it believes have broken the law. According to the CFPB, enforcement is accomplished by “filing an action in federal district court or initiating administrative arbitration proceedings.”
What resources does the CFPB make available to consumers?
Key resources that the CFPB makes available to consumers include:
- Online financial educational material for consumers
- Expert help with consumer questions
- Filing complaints about problems consumers have with financial products or services
Online educational material
“CFPB provides a wealth of consumer information, including easy-to-understand articles and videos on making smart financial decisions,” says Ross Gloudeman, general counsel and chief compliance officer at Azimuth GRC. “The site also shares helpful tips and ideas for those who are struggling financially or who feel their financial needs are not being met by their bank or lender.”
Consumers can find information on the CFPB website on money-related topics in the form of articles, videos, how-tos, roadmaps, and more. These are topics such as:
- Car loans
- Bank accounts and services
- Credit card
- Credit reports and scores
- Debt recovery
- Frauds and scams
- Money transfers
- Payday loans
- Prepaid cards
- Reverse mortgages
- Student loans
The CFPB can help you answer many financial questions you may have. You may be able to find answers to common questions online. Help is also available by phone in over 180 languages. The number is 1-855-411-2372.
The CFPB can also direct you to other expert resources. If you’re looking to buy a home, for example, the CFPB can direct you to HUD housing counselors across the United States.
The CFPB claims to handle more than 10,000 complaints about financial products and services per week. Consumer complaints help the CFPB better supervise financial companies, enforce federal financial laws, and ultimately write better rules and regulations.
What role does the CFPB play in real estate?
Since the CFPB was created in the wake of the financial crisis which was largely created as a result of fraudulent and predatory mortgage lending practices, the CFPB plays a central role in mortgage lending rules and in the service.
The CFPB is active in developing and adjusting rules as needed. An example includes an amendment to the Real Estate Regulations and Procedures Act (RESPA), Regulation X to protect borrowers affected by the COVID-19 emergency. This amendment would allow servicers to make changes to loans for borrowers affected by COVID-19 hardship and suspend foreclosure proceedings.
Another example of a rule created by the CFPB is the “Know Before You Owe” mortgage initiative. This initiative reduced the number of mortgage disclosure forms provided by lenders from four to two. The idea was to make it easier for consumers to understand their loan options, especially when comparing mortgages. It also helps them avoid costly surprises at the closing table.
How can the CFPB help me?
When consumers have issues with financial companies that they cannot resolve on their own, a complaint to the CFPB can be helpful. Here is an example of what can happen with a medical billing complaint.
“When a consumer files a complaint with the CFPB, they contact the company to try to resolve the complaint and get more information about how the consumer was affected,” says Annette Harris, owner of Harris Financial Coaching.
“CFPB helps consumers resolve medical debt issues reported to credit reporting agencies,” Harris says. “Medical billing is very complex, and working with insurance companies and medical facilities to resolve issues can lead to late payments.
“While consumers try to resolve some of these issues, medical institutions report medical debt to credit reporting agencies as unpaid, which can negatively affect a consumer’s credit score. If the consumer cannot work with the supplier to solve the problem, he can file a complaint with the CFPB.”
How do I file a complaint with the CFPB?
You can submit a complaint to the CFPB online or by phone at 1-855-411-CFPB (2372).
The CFPB receives complaints about financial products or services, and you will be asked which of the following categories it belongs to.
- Debt recovery
- Credit reports, credit repair services or other personal consumer reports
- Credit card or prepaid card
- Current or savings account
- Vehicle loan or rental
- Student loan
- Payday loan, title loan or personal loan
- Transfer of money, virtual currency or monetary service
Effective complaints are clear and concise. You must include details of:
- What happened, including key dates, amounts and communications you had with the company.
- How you tried to resolve the issue with the company.
- What you think would be a fair resolution.
After filing a complaint, you can check the state where you submitted the complaint online or by phone. You will also receive email updates from the CFPB on the progress of your case, next steps and how the company is responding to your complaint. Most companies respond within 15 days.
Criticism of the CFPB
One of the criticisms of the CFPB has been that the agency itself does not have enough oversight. The CFPB is financed by the
instead of Congress, allowing the office to operate outside of Congressional control.
An example of this is how the CFPB is able to issue rules for financial institutions. The CFPB has been given the power under the Dodd-Frank Act to enact new rules or outlaw certain practices associated with consumer financial products or services if they are misleading, unfair or abusive. These rules can be made without input from Congress, which some members objected to, given that it is the constitutional law-making body of the United States.
On the other hand, some have also argued that this degree of independence can help the office operate more efficiently by insulating it from political pressures.