By Gideon Weissman, U.S. PIRG
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis with one mission: to protect consumers in the financial marketplace.
Consumers face a wide variety of complex problems, along with tricks and traps, when dealing with financial companies like banks, mortgage companies, consumer lenders and debt collectors. Problems can include deceptive advertising, hidden fees, illegal debt harassment and more.
The CFPB protects consumers from mistreatment in the financial marketplace in a number of different ways:
- Helping consumers resolve complaints. Consumers who feel they have been wronged by a financial company can submit complaints through the CFPB’s Office of Consumer Response, available at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/. The CFPB sends complaints to the company in question, and in the vast majority of cases gets results, sometimes including monetary compensation.
- Taking enforcement actions to stop wrongdoing. The CFPB has the ability to penalize companies that break the law. These actions can force companies to refund customers, pay fines, halt bad practices, and more. To date, CFPB enforcement actions have led to nearly $12 billion in relief for harmed consumers.[pdf]
- Supervising financial companies. The CFPB’s team of regulators keeps watch over many financial companies to ensure they follow federal consumer law. For example, the CFPB supervises mortgage companies to make sure that they lend only to customers they believe can repay their loans; mortgage companies failing to do due diligence on customer ability to meet their loan obligation was a key factor behind the 2008 financial crisis.
- Creating new consumer protections. The CFPB routinely sets new rules to protect consumers from bad financial practices. In October, 2016, for example, the CFPB finalized a new rule for prepaid cards, which had previously been largely unregulated and charged consumers often exorbitant fees. Under the CFPB’s new rule, financial institutions must “limit consumers’ losses when funds are stolen or cards are lost, investigate and resolve errors, and give consumers free and easy access to account information.”
- Educating consumers. The CFPB provides extensive and varied resources to improve financial literacy, for consumers of all types and all ages; these include hosting webinars, providing materials to financial educators, and providing tools to help parents teach their kids money skills.
The CFPB provides information about its enforcement and supervisory actions on its website, along with extensive resources for consumers who want to learn more about financial products or file a complaint. To learn more, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.