By U.S. PIRG
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB is just four years old on July 21, 2015! It’s the first federal agency with just one job: Protecting all consumers – with special offices to protect servicemembers, older Americans and students and to fight discrimination — all across the financial marketplace, including banks, non-banks, debt collectors and other firms.
1) When companies break the rules, the CFPB takes action to protect you and gets your money back, over $10 Billion so far.
Enforcement and supervisory actions by CFPB have directly returned $2.6 Billion into consumer accounts, including over $1.8 Billion from unfair credit card company practices alone. It has also eliminated $7.5 Billion in unfair mortgage and student loan interest and penalties and other unfair fees and debts. Supervision is looking at a company’s books or operations as part of a regular examination process.
Here are just two recent examples of CFPB enforcement actions:
- Auto price discrimination by American Honda Finance: In July, CFPB returned $24 million to African-American, Hispanic and Asia/Pacific Island borrowers who paid too much for car loans due to discriminatory pricing, without regard to their creditworthiness.
- “Zombie” debt collection by JP Morgan Chase Bank: Also this July, the Department of Justice and 47 states joined CFPB in a $216 million action against the mega-bank for illegal “zombie debt” collection practices affecting over half-a-million consumers.
See the full list of CFPB enforcement actions at Americans for Financial Reform.
2) The CFPB gets results when you complain about any financial firm.
CFPB takes complaints on nearly any financial issue (from mortgages to payday loans to credit bureaus and credit cards and more), either online or over the phone (in numerous languages) or in writing (see this link for details). It’s taken over 600,000 so far. It then sends those complaints to the bank, debt collector or other financial company. The CFPB gets results for consumers. It recovers money, eliminates false credit bureau information and debt collection claims and stops discriminatory practices.
HOW DO I MAKE A COMPLAINT?
- VISIT consumerfinance.gov/complaint
- OR MAKE A FREE PHONE CALL: 1-855-411-CFPB (2372)
3) The CFPB makes consumer complaints public so you can learn
Your complaint can help other consumers. You can learn from others’ complaints. Companies that want to do the right thing will learn what practices by others consumers complain the most about. Visit http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaintdatabase/ to dig into the database.
Here are some PIRG research reports using the database to study complaints about banks, credit card companies, student loans, debt collectors, credit bureaus and mortgages.
The database includes narrative stories. You can read the stories here: https://data.consumerfinance.gov/d/nsyy-je5y. If you provide your (optional) story, more consumers will learn about problems with your bank or credit bureau or other firm and that will help them make better choices.
The CFPB publishes a monthly summary of complaints, with features including “Top Ten Complained-About Companies.”
4) CFPB has a special office to protect servicemembers and veterans
Young soldiers and sailors, and veterans, are often targets of high-cost financial products from auto and home loans to for-profit schools as well as out-and-out financial scams. The CFPB enforces special laws designed to protect military family pocketbooks.
Its Office of Servicemember Affairs also makes sure servicemembers and families are protected through a combination of educational outreach and tough enforcement of the laws.
See a list of all CFPB actions to protect servicemembers and veterans.
Check out CFPB’s Consumer protection resources for servicemembers.
5) CFPB has a Special Office To Help Students Pay for College and Avoid Unfair Campus Banking Practices
CFPB has a Student Loan Ombudsman to investigate problems and help students, especially those with high-cost private student loans or problems with for-profit colleges.
The office has a special website “Paying for College” chock-full of resources for students, former students and recent graduates, of any age.
Check out CFPB’s student loan resources and tips on #studentdebtstress.
6) Buying a Home? The CFPB Has Mortgage Resources to Help You Avoid Problems
The CFPB has many resources for consumers buying a home, including its new Know Before You Owe Home Loan Toolkit.
As the CFPB explains further:
- “We have information on mortgages for homebuyers, homeowners, and anyone who needs help understanding our mortgage rules.
- Find a housing counselor near you. Housing counselors can provide advice on buying or renting a home, foreclosures, and credit issues.
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has information about mortgage servicing and settlement.”
7) CFPB Helps Older Americans:
The CFPB has a special office to help Senior Citizens avoid financial exploitation either by relatives or by a variety of scam artists who specialize in targeting older Americans. The CFPB Office of Older Americans can help. It also provides tips and advice and tools for older Americans as they make tough financial choices. The CFPB explains:
“You may face clever scam artists or desperate family members targeting you because of your home equity or net worth…a choice between paying the mortgage/rent or your credit card…or even complicated decisions about finances, retirement, and long-term care planning…We’re here to help you…prevent others from taking your savings or your home…understand your financial options when your spouse dies…find out where you can turn to for information…learn about your financial choices…access tools you need to achieve your goals.”
The CFPB also has guides for elder caregivers: see “Managing money guides for caregivers of older Americans.”
8) Financially Vulnerable Consumers Have a friend at the CFPB
The CFPB’s Office of Financial Empowerment helps “low-income and economically vulnerable consumers to make informed financial decisions by providing them with tools and information and by promoting a more inclusive and fair financial marketplace.” It also has variety of resources and toolkits for social services agencies, legal services offices and educators.
9) Got a Question? Ask CFPB.
Ask CFPB is a resource with over 1100 answers to common financial questions, such as:
- How do I dispute an error on my credit report?
- How does foreclosure work?
- What is the difference between a fixed APR and a variable APR?
- When can I remove private mortgage insurance (PMI) from my loan?
- What is a remittance transfer?
- Is applying for a payday loan online safe?
- What are my rights under the Military Lending Act?
10) The CFPB Has Many Other Resources: Here are just a few more:
- Tell Your Story page (not complaints, only stories). Read stories. Watch video stories. Add a story.
- Know Before You Owe, a campaign to make costs and risks of products clearer
- Financial education guides on a wide range of consumer products and services
- The CFPB has a variety of resources for consumers, banks and financial firms here.
Visit the CFPB on Facebook.
Follow the CFPB on Twitter (@cfpb).
Learn more at the CFPB’s own birthday blog: Four years working for you.