Bureau changes direction for consumer education unit; promises vigorous pursuit of complaints

Stating that the division of consumer education should “redouble its efforts to ensure the Bureau engages all consumers who are economically suffering,” the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Wednesday issued a change in strategic direction for the unit.

He also signaled a more vigorous response from the agency on consumer complaints, especially those submitted by minority communities.

CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio issued a six-point plan to the bureau’s division of Consumer Education and External Affairs (CEEA), asserting that the bureau “must move swiftly to reach those whose financial lives are most precarious in this moment.”

Uejio, in a letter to bureau staff, described as a top priority ensuring that consumer complaints – particularly those submitted by “Black, Brown and Indigenous communities” – “get the response and the relief that they deserve.”

“I understand that some companies have been lax in meeting their obligation to respond to complaints,” Uejio wrote. “It is the Bureau’s expectation that companies provide substantive responses that address the issues consumers describe in their complaints.

“I also understand that consumer advocates have found disparities in some companies’ responses to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities,” Uejio continued. “This is unacceptable. I have asked Consumer Response [the unit in the agency that follows consumer complaints] to prepare a report highlighting the companies with a poor track record on these issues. We will be publishing this analysis and the senior leadership of these companies can expect to be hearing from me,” he wrote.

Uejio’s actions for realigning the CEEA’s strategic direction include:

  • Target bureau resources to reach and help struggling homeowners in delinquency or at risk of foreclosure and renters at risk of eviction to ensure they know their rights.
  • Ramp up coordination efforts with other agencies to provide help and information to at-risk homeowners and renters.
  • Collaborate with coalitions of stakeholders, including consumer advocates, civil rights groups, grassroots, community-based organizations, and individual consumers “to get these messages to homeowners in languages and terminology they understand.”
  • Help ensure homeowners and renters can access HUD-approved housing counseling organizations to help them manage the challenges they face due to financial hardships brought on by COVID.
  • Lead a refresh of the division website’s look and feel to be more user-friendly, focused on consumers rights, and signal that “in no uncertain terms, we are on their side.” “And expand our social media presence so that we hear directly from the people we serve. To reach consumers where they are, we must keep up with how people access information regardless of device or form,” he noted.
  • Aggressively rebuild and repair relationships with consumer, civil rights, racial justice, and tribal and Indigenous rights groups. “We cannot execute on these bold ideas unless we robustly engage with external stakeholders who support economically vulnerable consumers,” he said.

Consumers and their experiences to be at the foundation of CFPB policymaking