By Preeti Vissa
Every once in a while, government gets something really, really right, and it looks like one of those instances is happening right now. One of the best provisions of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed last year, created the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB). This new agency has the ability to give our communities extraordinary new protections from predatory financial products and services.
Led during this initial set-up phase by Professor Elizabeth Warren , CFPB is charged with providing these protections. And Warren seems intent on giving the bureau a true Main Street focus.
Just last week, the CFPB launched its website,ConsumerFinance.gov. When was the last time you saw a government site where one of the most prominent messages on the home page was, in large type, “We want you to share our thoughts, concerns, and stories”?
The website is intended as an interactive forum that allows consumers to easily seek out information about financial products, as well as to submit complaints. In discussions with community groups and citizens around the country, Prof. Warren has made clear that she wants CFPB to be a consumer-driven agency that draws its agenda from the real-world needs of consumers.
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One time or another, nearly all of us have signed financial documents — credit card applications, loan forms, etc. — that seemed to be a mass of legalistic fine print that we knew we’d never really understand. Finally, there will be a “cop on the beat” — that’s CFPB’s own phrase – whose job it is to make sure these documents are clear and straightforward, not filled with hidden tricks and traps.
Unfortunately, some in Congress are already working to undermine CFPB and other key reforms included in last year’s financial reform package. Hopefully, they won’t succeed.
It’s worth taking the time to explore the CFPB website and to provide feedback directly to CFPB, which haslaunched an ‘Open for Suggestions’ section. You can submit suggestions via YouTube, Twitter, or direct email to CFPB.
It will be good for CFPB to hear from a wide variety of Americans, and it will be good for all of us if diverse communities feel they have a direct connection to CFPB. Creation of this new bureau may be the single most important provision of Wall Street reform, and the next year will be crucial. Let’s make the most of it.