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Statement Commending New Military Consumer Enforcement Act

Gives CFPB More Tools To Protect Those Who Serve
For Immediate Release

“These senators have the right idea-- strengthen the CFPB’s ability to protect those who serve. Why do others want to weaken the CFPB?”

Statement by Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG Consumer Advocate On How the Military Consumer Enforcement  Act further empowers the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to protect servicemembers and veterans

 Washington, DC – “Today, U.S. PIRG applauds U.S. Senators Jack Reed (RI), Sherrod Brown (OH) and other Senators (list below) for introducing the Military Consumer Enforcement Act. The bill enhances the CFPB’s ability to protect servicemembers and veterans from abuses in the financial marketplace by giving it jurisdiction over enforcing key parts of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

The CFPB and its Office of Servicemember Affairs have already demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting those who serve. For example, it has taken at least 12 major legal actions against financial firms targeting young servicemembers, older veterans and their families, securing approximately $130 million in relief for them. It has also successfully investigated banks to ensure compliance with the Military Lending Act.

And it has handled over 72,000 complaints from the military community. A U.S. PIRG Education Fund report released earlier this month found that debt collection abuses were the leading source (32%) of servicemember complaints to the CFPB. (2-page report summary).

But the SCRA offers important additional protections that have been, at best, unevenly enforced by other regulators. The SCRA includes provisions that prohibit the eviction of military members and their dependents from rental or mortgaged property, and the law caps interest at 6% on debts incurred prior to an individual entering active duty military service.

Given its proven track record for protecting our military community, giving the CFPB the jurisdiction over key parts of the SCRA means that the law will actually be enforced. These Senators have the right idea - we should be strengthening the CFPB’s ability to protect those who serve. Why do others want to weaken the watchdog?

While we commend the Senators for this effort, we also warn the entire Senate that it must reject threats to the CFPB. Threats include the House-passed Financial Choice Act, HR 10, and proposals from other Senators to weaken the CFPB. The better-named Wrong Choice Act would leave the CFPB an unrecognizable husk and also roll back most of the Dodd-Frank Act’s other protections against another collapse of our financial system and economy.

Dismantling the CFPB would place servicemembers, veterans and their families in “financial harm’s way,” thereby threatening unit preparedness since financial problems are a leading cause of revocation of security clearances.         

Our troops, their families and our veterans and all the rest of us deserve a strong watchdog protecting their interests. That watchdog is the CFPB.”

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Other original co-sponsors of the Military Consumer Enforcement Act include Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Al Franken (Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Catherine Cortez-Masto (Nev.).

U.S. PIRG is the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups.  PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations that stand up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. On the web at www.uspirg.org.

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