April 12, 2012 |
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday proposed reversing a ban on exorbitant credit card sign-up fees, frustrating consumer groups and raising questions about the scope of the agency's authority. At issue are "fee-harvester cards" that are targeted at consumers with poor credit histories. The cards typically come with low limits, high fees and interest rates of up to 36 percent. Congress tried to rein in those costs three years ago as part of its sweeping retooling of the credit card industry by capping the fees an issuer can charge at 25 percent of the card's limit during its first year of use. For example, a card offered by First Premier bank with a $300 credit limit comes with a $75 annual fee — within the boundary set by Congress.
April 8, 2012 |
An expansion of workers' rights in the areas of wage and hour and whistleblower protections could mean trouble for Washington area employers who choose to ignore them. More stringent penalties can now be imposed for employers who miscategorize employees as independent contractors. And new provisions in another law provide more protections to individuals who blow the whistle in the workplace. Over the last year, the Labor Department and states have identified more and more instances of employers miscategorizing workers as independent contractors.
March 27, 2012 |
Survey after survey continues to conclude that consumers don't have a good grasp of personal finance issues. There are good intentions behind these surveys. Their purpose is to find out how to create financial literacy programs to help people understand the importance of saving and investing, the devastating results of taking on too much debt, and how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. In fact, April has been designated as National Financial Literacy Month. Last year, in a proclamation about setting some time aside to learn more about your finances, President Obama said: "As we recover from the worst economic crisis in generations, it is more important than ever to be knowledgeable about the consequences of our financial decisions.
March 22, 2012 |
The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a new portion of its Web site on Thursday aimed at answering consumers' most common questions. The initiative, dubbed Ask CFPB , includes plain-spoken answers to more than 350 inquiries focused on credit cards and mortgages. The agency began accepting complaints on checking accounts, private student loans and auto loans this month, and staff members said they will add information about those products soon. "We believe that an informed consumer is the first line of defense against unfair practices," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said.
February 25, 2012 |
Bank overdraft fees drive me crazy. It's just wasted money. Sure, overdraft protection is a good backup for the times you miscalculate, but sometimes the fees run into the hundreds of dollars a month and are the most burdensome on the people least able to afford them. Well, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau intends to do something about this. The bureau is investigating banks' overdraft practices and their effect on consumers' finances. If you have overdraft protection, your financial institution will cover the transaction so your check won't bounce — but it will charge you a fee. The average overdraft fee ranged from $30 to $35 in 2011 and has increased 17 percent over the past five years, according to CFPB.
January 27, 2012 |
The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, is working on a real estate issue that gets to the core of the agency's purpose: the often opaque and costly fees that buyers, sellers and refinancers are hit with at closings. The bureau is reviewing ways to bring more clarity and better disclosure to this process. One of the fees being scrutinized might surprise you: appraisal charges. Why do they need clarifying? Doesn't just about everybody who applies for a mortgage, whether it's to buy a house or refinance, have to pay $450 to $600 — sometimes more — to find out what the property is worth?
January 21, 2012 |
If you look carefully — and you probably haven't — at the fine print in your credit card agreement or in many of the consumer contracts you sign, you'll probably find a provision that says if you have a dispute and want your day in court, you're out of luck. Instead, you are forced to go to binding arbitration. Businesses love arbitration. Companies argue that it keeps legal costs down and can limit class-action lawsuits, which they warn can result in higher consumer prices. But consumer advocates say that such provisions are unfair because they deny consumers the chance to have their disputes settled by a judge or jury.
January 10, 2012 |
I got into just one fight while in elementary school. A bully was hitting my younger brother, Mitchell, who suffered from epilepsy. The attacker was considerably larger than my brother, who was cowering on the ground trying to block the punches with his arms. I was skinny and bookish and would cry if you looked at me hard. But I got between that boy and my brother and just started swinging. I fought so hard on behalf of my brother. The bully never bothered him again. That's how I see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: as a protector of consumers from the punches of bullying financial companies.
January 5, 2012 |
Newly installed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray laid out his agenda Thursday, vowing to press ahead despite political objections and legal questions about his status as a recess appointee. "It's a valid appointment. I'm now the director of the bureau. . . . We now have our full authority to move forward," Cordray said in his first public speech as the agency's director, a day after President Obama used a recess appointment to bypass Republicans who had blocked Cordray's confirmation in the Senate.
January 5, 2012 |
President Obama has done what he should have done months ago. On Wednesday, he appointed Richard Cordray as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Without missing a beat, Republicans, who have been holding up Cordray's nomination to head this important consumer agency, criticized the president's move, reports The Washington Post's David Nakamura and Felicia Sonmez. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement that Obama "has arrogantly circumvented the American people" by using his executive power to make a recess appointment.