Proposal sets up pilot program of ‘advisory opinions’ for clarifying how consumer bureau rules affect entities

Unsure how a rule from the federal consumer financial protection agency affects you? Starting Thursday, under a new pilot program from the agency, you can submit a request for clarity “where uncertainty exists.”

In a release, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said its new “pilot advisory opinion” program (which it refers to as “AO”) will review the submissions, select topics based on the program’s priorities, and then make responses available to the public. The program is proposed as a procedural rule with a request for comment.

The agency said its priorities are:

  • Providing consumers with timely and understandable information to make responsible decisions;
  • Identifying outdated, unnecessary or unduly burdensome regulations in order to reduce regulatory burdens;
  • Establishing consistency in enforcement of federal consumer financial law in order to promote fair competition;
  • Ensuring markets for consumer financial products and services operate transparently and efficiently to facilitate access and innovation.

Other factors “weighing for the appropriateness of an AO” on an issue, the bureau said, include: whether an issue has been noted in prior bureau examinations as one that could benefit from additional regulatory clarity; the issue’s “substantive importance” or impact; and whether the issue concerns “an ambiguity that the Bureau has not previously addressed through an interpretive rule or other authoritative source.”

“There will be a strong presumption against appropriateness of an AO for issues that are the subject of an ongoing investigation or enforcement action or the subject of an ongoing or planned rulemaking,” the agency said.

The CFPB said it may issue an advisory opinion based on its own summary of the facts presented that could be applicable to other entities in situations with similar facts and circumstances. The agency said the advisory opinions would be posted on its website and published in the Federal Register.

The bureau said it is taking comments on the program. The agency added that the program will be “fully implemented” after comments received are reviewed.

CFPB proposed procedural rule; proposed information collection; request for comment.