| December 21, 2011

CFPB Ombudsman’s office open for business

When Americans call the new federal agency in charge of protecting consumers from predatory lending practices, they can now rest assured that their concerns aren’t just getting filed in a massive government file.

The newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now has an Ombudsman’s office that will oversee the fielding of complaints about questionable or unfair practices on the part of financial institutions, according to a report from U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, writing for the Huntington Post. This office will have a wide range of responsibilities, many of which pertain to giving guidance on laws related to financial products for consumers, and giving governmental agencies at all level advice about actions that may affect consumers.

But starting this spring, consumers will also be able to make use of the Ombudsman’s office, as it will be set up to help those who believe they have legitimate complaints about the way they’ve been treated by a financial institution, the report said. In addition, it will work to disseminate as much information as possible about the rights citizens, civic groups and the like have under the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act.

The Ombudsman’s office opened for business officially on December 8, the report said. Currently, it is under the direction of Acting Ombudsman Wendy Kamenshine, who is working with colleagues to also help financial institutions better understand how it is implementing regulations of the Dodd-Frank Act.

However, there are still problems facing the CFPB, including the fact that it has been operating since opening for business in July without a full-time leader, the report said. Republican lawmakers have worked to ensure that no potential head of the agency can be appointed to the position no matter how qualified they may be to run the bureau. This is because they object to the Dodd-Frank Act and specifically the CFPB ideologically.

The CFPB has still made a number of strides in the few months since it gained full regulatory power, including taking an accounting of the various complaints consumers had about their credit cards. The most common gripe Americans lodged with the agency had to do with billing disputes and concerns about the interest rates they were paying on their credit card debt.

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