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CFPB Looks at Mobile Banking, With the 'Underbanked' as a Focus

NEW YORK (TheStreet) ? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to sure everyone gets a fair shot at using mobile banking technology to better manage their money. It wants mobile banking to be as universal as possible, available to Americans across all financial demographics.

"In a world where people can manage their money on the go, there is great potential to serve more consumers and allow them to take greater control of their finances," says Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB. "But we need to make sure all consumers are protected whether they are opening their wallets or scanning the screen on their smartphones."

Consider these statistics, gathered by the CFPB:

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  • 90% of U.S. citizens own a cellphone.
  • 60% of that number own a smartphone.
  • 50 million Americans own a computer tablet.
  • 33% of cellphone users and 50% of smartphone users found "greater access" to their banks and financial institutions.
  • Last year, 74,000 U.S adults began using mobile banking on a daily basis.

The agency is especially interested in how the unbanked and the underbanked ? people who don't use banks or who may rely on pay-day lenders and check chasing services in lieu of banks ? use mobile banking. A recent Federal Reserve study says the unbanked are actually big users of mobile banking technology, using it "in greater numbers" than the general population.

Thus the new directive out of Washington, D.C., and the CFPB to focus on mobile banking to ensure the unbanked/underbanked "gain access to the banking system and grow their financial capability."

Also see: Mobile Banking Needs Smartphones With Retina Scans

That's why the agency is studying "the opportunities and challenges associated with mobile financial products and services," to make sure the "tens of millions of unbanked, underbanked and underserved consumers in the United States" get the same opportunities to leverage mobile bank as traditional bank users. The bureau says:

"The bureau is seeking information on whether using mobile devices opens up options in financial services and money management for these consumers; and whether these options are cheaper than traditional financial services. The bureau is also exploring whether the increased use of mobile technologies could affect the availability and location of bank branches; and if so, what impact that would have on consumers."

The CFPB also wants to study mobile banking's ability to offer real-time money management (especially in the area of spending decisions) and how banks are (or are not) offering quality customer service to mobile banking customers.

Once the CFPB starts looking into the issue, that's usually a sign it will follow up eventually on policy directives for banks to follow on mobile technologies. That lies down the road, but it's a road that Uncle Sam has already started navigating.

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