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CBBB Partners with Attorneys General on Consumer Finance Issues

5/23/2011

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The regulation and oversight of the financial services industry in clearly is flux and may offer BBB an opportunity to play a greater role in the area.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the use of arbitration in some circumstances; stakeholders need more and better local data.  The Council of Better Business Bureaus is working more closely with the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) around these and other consumer issues and has been invited to participate in one of their meetings later this year. 

As part of its new government relations program, the Council participated in the NAAG meeting on consumer protection and the financial services industry.  The focus of the meeting was the federally created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and how the attorneys general can best work with this new agency.    The conference offered us an opportunity to meet with over a dozen attorneys general, learn more about emerging consumer issues and discuss  new ways in which the BBB can work with AG’s and the new CFPB. 

Many speakers at the three-day conference in Charlotte, NC focused on the importance of good local consumer complaint information and “early warning systems” that identify consumer fraud trends and that identify the most egregious financial scams.

Elizabeth Warren, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary on the CFPB, underscored the importance of organizations sharing complaint information regarding consumer financial products and services.  She also discussed the increased need for a consistent and enduring framework to share information.  The Council will continue to work with NAAG and CFPB to see if there is a more active role we can take within this new framework. Ms. Warren also talked about the role of AGs and other local organizations as “first responders” to developing consumer scams.  Interestingly, she mentioned that there may be a greater role for arbitration and mediation regarding the financial services industry and that credit cards, checking accounts and mortgages are more likely to get greater governmental attention. 

Holly Petraeus, the Director of the Office of Member Affairs for the CFPB, (and former head of BBB Military Line), told the group that the agency will address issues related to military indebtedness. She highlighted concerns regarding variations in the cost of security deposits around the country; high priced electronics with unfair financing, and military families facing mortgages that are underwater.  She noted that more consumer education is needed in this area. 

The Council continues to be engaged with the CFPB and other stakeholders on these matters.  This work is all going on with the eye toward strengthening the role of the BBB in marketplace issues and finding new opportunities for local bureaus.

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