On April 13, 2012, the Bureau released a compliance report outlining the steps it is taking to incorporate plain language into its documents and publications. Under the Plain Language Act of 2010 (the “Act”), all federal agencies are required to publish a report outlining their compliance with the Act by April 13, 2012, and annually thereafter.
The Bureau’s report lists three specific types of communications in which it has integrated plain language. The first area of focus is on consumer facing content--that is, all online and print materials that are directed to consumers and assist consumers in understanding financial issues. These materials contain plain language that inform consumers on all CFPB activities; provide consumers information to consumers regarding their rights under federal consumer laws; and assist consumers make financial decisions.
The second area of focus is on technical and specialized documents, such as bulletins targeted towards financial institutions. According to the report, many of these documents do not impact consumers, but rather focus on regulated industries. It is the CFPB’s intent to publish a plain language summary of any technical or specialized document that directly impacts consumers’ behavior or their understanding of their rights under consumer financial laws.
The final category of communications that the report takes into consideration are proposed or final regulations and rules made by the CFPB. While regulations are not covered by the Act, the Bureau intends to publish a plain language summary of all regulations that it issues.
Under the CFPB guidelines, all documents that are subject to the Plain Writing Act will be reviewed by the CFPB’s Senior Plain Writing Officer, Gail Hillebrand, and at least one of the plain language coordinators.
Additionally, the report outlines the CFPB’s activities in training its staff. Currently, all staff in the Division of Consumer Education and Engagement have received in-house training in plain language writing, with additional training sessions being made available on a Bureau-wide and regional basis. The CFPB will also make online training available to its staff later this summer and has issued to all staff, training materials as well as emails covering the requirements of the Act.
A copy of the full report released by the CFPB can be found here: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/plain-writing/.