We’ve reported on all three of the big fines handed down by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over the past few months. Some might say this new government agency has done more in the past 90 days than what Congress has managed over the two years.
Indeed, the bureau’s Director Rich Cordray has delivered on all of his promises – and he’s quick to tell anyone who’ll listen two things: it’s been a team effort of those who work alongside him each day and there’s more to come.
We thought we’d take a look at not only these 3 big actions that include three of the best known names in the credit card industry, all of which faced huge fines and refunds for consumers. We’ll also take a look at what’s next for CFPB and ultimately, all of us as consumers and the companies we rely on for our financial needs.
First, in July, an announcement was made by the CFPB that it had ordered Capital One Bank to give back, in the form of refunds or credit card credits, a staggering $140 million to its customers. On top of that, the credit card company was also billed for $25 million in penalties and fines. These fines, penalties and refunds were due to what CFPB ruled was deceptive marketing efforts as well as pressures to add services and allowing some new customers to believe those add ons were required for approval. Capital One President of Credit Cards Ryan Schneider said, shortly after the announcement, that the company was ultimately accountable for the actions any vendors or third parties “did on our behalf…these marketing calls were inconsistent with the explicit instructions we provide agents. We apologize to those customers who were impacted”.
Within a month of that first announcement, Round 2 began and this time, it was a joint effort between FDIC and CFPB. The combined efforts resulted in Discover Bank being ordered to refund $200 million to more than 3 million of its customers. It was also hit with a fine of $14 million. The agencies said, like Capital One, telemarketers for Discover were less than forthcoming when it came to fees and add-ons.
Then, one month after that, American Express found itself in the same hot water as its competitors, Discover and Capital One. American Express companies were found to have “violated consumer protection laws at all stages of the game – from the moment a consumer shopped for a card…to the phone calls made for collecting overdue payments”, said Cordray. American Express admitted to no wrongdoing and agreed to pay more than $27 million to several regulatory agencies along with $85 million to those consumers affected.
These three cases were important for the bureau as it had a tall order to fill coming out of the gate – and it delivered. It’s definitely carved a place in the consumer/company relationship. But what’s next for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?
Its strategic plan outlines the goals for the next five years and one of its continued missions is to continue differentiating itself from other agencies that might provide similar services to taxpayers or consumers, but that do not have the sole purpose of consumer financial protection. As part of its plan, this bureau steps in with “effective tools to set the rules for and oversee the whole market”. The singular focus, of course, is serving as screen while providing these protections by increasing accountability int he sector as well as supervise and examine a host of financial institutions.
It will also continue to expand its authority to oversee mortgage companies, payday lenders and student loan lenders. The preferred method of resolving problems, according to Cordray, is via self correction. He says, however, his agency will issue public enforcement actions when necessary.
It’s four biggest challenges moving forward includes developing and maintaining “an efficient fact-based approach to developing, evaluating, revising, and finalizing regulations”. It also says it will continue to leverage technology in its efforts as it moves forward with clearer language with fewer repetitions in guidelines and compliance regulations.
What’s refreshing with these policies and operating procedures of CFPB is its transparency. There are always current information in terms of how many reviews have been completed, how many regulatory goals have been reached and, of course, information on those changes made via the agency.
Remember, the bureau has been enforcing laws and changing the sector for just two short years. It’s accomplished a lot in those two years and if they’re any example of what’s to come, it could be the financial sector as a whole will once again be the model for the entire world.
What do you think the bureau should devote more time to? And have you filed your own complaints? If so, let us know about your experience.
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