On May 28, 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued its fifth Semi-Annual Report to the President and Congress, covering its activities from October 1, 2013 - March 31, 2014. Not surprisingly, the fifth report echoes many of the same points as the previous, fourth Semi-Annual Report, issued on November 5, 2013. In these reports, the Bureau summarizes its efforts to protect consumers in the financial marketplace and help them improve their financial lives. In the most recent report, the Bureau details how it is using consumer engagement, consumer outreach, regulation, and enforcement to ensure consumers are protected from improper conduct and to ensure access to competitive and fair markets. A brief summary of some the key points and highlights from the lengthy, 177-page fifth Semi-Annual Report are listed below:
The Bureau continues to collect complaints about a wide variety of financial products and services. In November 2013, it added complaints about payday loans to the range of products and services it takes complaints for. In addition, the recently added “Tell Your Story” feature on its website allows consumers to share personal experiences about the negative impact bad actors in the financial marketplace have had on their lives.
The Bureau engaged communities using webinars, listening sessions, large consumer events, and collaborations with community leaders. For example, the Bureau cites to one of the major initiatives of the Office of Financial Education on educating consumers about new protections on overseas money transfers that became effective in October 2013. In addition, the CFPB Office of Servicemember Affairs conducted 77 outreach events from Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014 to more than 6,066 military and veteran consumers. Similarly, the CFPB Office for Older Americans conducted 70 events from October 3, 2013 to March 31, 2014, reaching more than 6,459 people. The office also jointly released with the FDIC, Money Smart for Older Adults, an instructor-led curriculum in June 2013.
In November 2013, the Bureau issued a final rule to consolidate federal mortgage disclosures under TILA and Sections 4 and 5 of RESPA. These new “Know Before You Owe” mortgage forms will “replace the existing federal disclosures and help consumers understand their options, choose the deal that is best for them, and avoid costly surprises at the closing table."Through extensive testing, the CFPB stated that consumers of all experience levels were able to understand the new forms better than the current forms. The rule will become effective August 1, 2015. Other rulemaking projects in November 2013 included a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning debt collection, which generates more complaints to the federal government each year than any other consumer financial services market. The Bureau also issued several rules in January 2013 implementing changes made by the Dodd-Frank Act to the laws governing aspects of the mortgage market.
The Bureau aims to consistently enforce laws within its jurisdiction and investigates potential violations of federal consumer financial laws through the Office of Enforcement. The bureau was a party in 31 public enforcement actions from April 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Further details of the 31 enforcement actions can be found in the report.