The new federal agency in charge of helping to protect consumers from misleading or troublesome lending practices is still getting its feet under it, but has been successful in regulating a number of different loan types.
Everything from credit cards and mortgages to student and auto financing now fall under the purview of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the agency is committed to continuing to increase protections for borrowers over the course of time, according to a report from USA Today. The CFPB's efforts have led to a number of appreciable and tangible benefits for consumers.
For instance, many who filed a complaint about their credit cards - 38 percent in all - were able to get some remediation from their lenders as a result, the report said. The average person who submitted this type of inquiry to the agency got about $127 taken off their bill. The same is true, though to a lesser extent, for mortgage borrowers, 11 percent of whom received about $400 from their lenders.
In all, the CFPB has received nearly 43,000 complaints since opening its doors, the report said. And while 39 percent of consumers who participated in the remediation process through the agency said they were still unhappy at the end of it, the speed with which banks have responded to its requests has been notable. The agency sets a 15-day window in which lenders must respond, and they do so 95 percent of the time.
Further, the agency notes that many consumers who do not receive monetary reparations are still helped in other ways, such as with their lenders helping them to find alternatives to foreclosure, putting an end to calls from debt collectors and fixing erroneous entries on their credit file, the report said. In general, it takes about twice as long to fix the issues consumers have with their credit cards, but mortgages are the top complaint cited.
"That's interesting," Ruth Susswein of Consumer Action told the newspaper. "It's not surprising, but interesting. There are so many people who are in the midst of a mortgage problem, and there are so few avenues for consumers to turn to."
Also not surprisingly is that complaints tend to come most often from consumers who are in significant financial trouble, the report said. In all, 55 percent of complaints about mortgages relate to foreclosures or modifications, and 26 percent are for other issues. Just 9 percent relate to the applications consumers first fill out when seeking a mortgage.
Meanwhile, the most common complaint for credit cards, perhaps not surprisingly, is simply listed as "billing disputes," though in most cases that's an issue for merchants to deal with, not lenders, the report said. Another common problem consumers faced on their cards is either fraud or identity theft.
The CFPB has had full regulatory power since July, 2011, but struggled to create as many protections as it would have liked because it lacked a top executive for several months.