NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened its doors Thursday, exactly one year after the Dodd-Frank financial reform package that created it was signed into law, and while members of Congress continue to brainstorm ways to weaken it, the agency is already off to a running start.
In the months leading up to the bureau’s official launch, it has hired hundreds of employees, consulted with bank executives in every state and commissioned reports for a number of financial products, all to lay the groundwork for achieving its goal of making the relationship between consumers and financial services companies as fair and transparent as possible.
Ultimately, the CFPB hopes to touch on everything from student loan laws to excessive regulations that hurt small businesses, but at the moment, the bureau has begun work on three more modest proposals that will likely still make a big difference to the average consumer.
Simpler Mortgage Disclosure Forms
Mortgage disclosure forms are supposed to help consumers determine and compare the costs of various mortgage payment plans to find the one that is best for them in the long-term. Unfortunately, the two forms lenders are required to give consumers are several pages long and often end up confusing matters rather than clarifying them.
Earlier this year, the CFPB unveiled two possible redesigns of the forms as part of its Know Before You Owe initiative, each of which clearly displays information about monthly loan payments, projected costs each year for the duration of the loan and a simple fact sheet outlining what can and can’t lead to higher payments.
The bureau plans to review the forms throughout the second half of this year and pick a final version to be implemented by next July.
Processing Consumer Complaints
Perhaps most importantly, the bureau will serve as a place where consumers can turn to complain about unfair practices. Starting on day one, the bureau launched a hotline that lets distressed homeowners share their questions and concerns with housing counselors for advice. At the same time, the bureau created a section on its site where users can file credit card complaints and track progress toward resolving those complaints with a special number provided by the CFPB. The bureau plans to launch similar services for other financial services products.