On November 21st, the CFPB published a statement “applauding” the Department of Defense’s (DOD) military allotment system reform intended to protect servicemembers. “The changes announced will preserve the allotment system, while eliminating the aspects that are most frequently abused by businesses that target servicemembers,” the CFPB statement said. Under the DOD’s announced reforms, “new allotments to purchase, lease, or rent personal property will be prohibited.” The reforms aim to “improve protections for all service members and their families, while not significantly reducing the flexibility to use allotments for…legitimate purposes.” The CFPB has previously taken action against businesses that target servicemembers, often through the military allotment system; however, the DOD’s announced reforms “will help prevent future abuses by addressing the problem at its source.”
On December 4th, the CFPB published a notice and request for comment in the Federal Register proposing a new information collection titled, “CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Intake System Company Portal Boarding Form Information Collection System.” The proposed form would “support the appropriate routing of complaints to the companies that are the subjects of the complaints” by allowing companies to participate in the CFPB’s Company Portal (Company Portal), “a secure Web-based interface between the Bureau’s Office of Consumer Response…and companies.” According to the notice, the Company Portal “allows companies to view and respond to complaints as they are submitted” through the CFPB. The CFPB seeks comments on:
- Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the CFPB;
- The accuracy of the CFPB’s estimate of the burden of the collection of information;
- Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
- Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, as listed in the notice.
Public comments on the information collection are being accepted through February 2, 2015.
Ombudsman’s Third Annual Report
On November 24th, the Ombudsman for the CFPB, Wendy Kamenshine, delivered the Ombudsman’s third annual report to CFPB Director Richard Cordray. The report highlights a new section entitled, “The Ombudsman in Practice,” which discusses how the Ombudsman’s Office may provide assistance to consumers and recent issues raised by consumers or trade groups. Inquiries from consumers and trade groups include:
- Additional clarity on CFPB points-of-contact and an understanding of how CFPB staff learns about developments in the industry;
- The need for normalization of data in the public Consumer Complaint Database; and
- Continued confusion surrounding what to expect from the consumer complaint process, as listed in the report.
The Ombudsman report also provides examples of efforts made by the office over the past year, including improving the CFPB’s website for the visually impaired and ensuring responses to postal mail letters sent to the CFPB. Additionally, the report discusses CFPB information sharing efforts to consumers and how the CFPB learns about industry developments.
Fall 2014 Rulemaking Agenda
On November 21st, the CFPB published its fall 2014 rulemaking agenda. The agenda explains recent rulemaking actions that are in various stages of the rulemaking process, including:
- Defining “larger participants” in the automobile financing market and in certain consumer financial product and service markets to implement the CFPB’s “supervisory program for certain nonbank entities;”
- Its November 2013 debt collection advance notice of proposed rulemaking, which considers new rules that would govern the sale and/or collection of debts; and
- Its October 2014 privacy disclosure rule regarding consumer notices by companies to explain their information sharing practices under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act;
The agenda also describes the CFPB’s rulemaking efforts regarding mortgages, prepaid cards, payday loans, and overdraft services.
Mortgage Servicing Rules
On November 20th, the CFPB published its proposed changes to the mortgage servicing rules “to ensure that homeowners and struggling borrowers are treated fairly by mortgage servicers.” Among other changes, the CFPB’s proposal would:
- Require servicers to provide certain borrowers with foreclosure protections more than once over the life of the loan;
- Expand consumer protections to surviving family members and other homeowners;
- Require servicers to notify borrowers when loss mitigation applications are complete; and
- Clarify servicers’ obligations to avoid dual-tracking and prevent wrongful foreclosures, as listed in the announcement.
The CFPB’s publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register is forthcoming, and public comments will be accepted for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register. In addition to the press release announcing the proposal, the CFPB published a corresponding blog post on it and CFPB Director Richard Cordray provided prepared remarks on the mortgage servicing market at The Clearing House annual conference.
On November 25th, the CFPB announced that it will hold a field hearing on December 11, 2014, on medical debt collection. “The hearing will feature remarks from Director Richard Cordray, as well as testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public,” according to the announcement.
Consumer Finance Research Conference
On November 25th, the CFPB announced that it will host its first research conference on consumer finance on May 7-8, 2015. The announcement encourages submission of research that sheds light on various consumer finance issues, including:
- The ways consumers and households make decisions about borrowing, saving, and financial risk- taking;
- How various forms of credit affect household well-being; the structure and function of consumer financial markets; and
- Relevant innovations in modeling or data, as listed in the announcement.
Research submissions are being accepted through January 16, 2015.
On November 24th, the CFPB published a blog post encouraging families to discuss financial health while gathered during Thanksgiving.