Blog Posts By:

Ed Mierzwinski,
Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program

Last week, Sens. Jack Reed (RI) and Chris Van Hollen (MD) introduced legislation to finally give consumers real control over our own credit reports. The Consumer Credit Control Act would change what Sen. Reed appropriately calls our “backwards” credit reporting system by helping to solve two problems. The Consumer Credit Control Act is a win-win for consumers. It improves their privacy and saves them money.

CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger will deliver the statutory “Semi-Annual Report of the CFPB” to the House Financial Services (10/16) and Senate Banking (10/17) Committees next week. Here are some helpful questions for committee members to ask.

Recently, the CEOs who make up the Business Roundtable renewed their demand that Congress pass a federal privacy “standard” that preempts stronger state laws. That's the wrong way to go because Congress only does a good job protecting consumers either after a disaster (e.g., Wall Street's collapse of the economy) or after states lead the way. We shouldn't have to wait for a disaster. Learn more.

In committee votes this week and last week, the House Financial Services Committee sent a package of credit reporting reforms on to the House floor. It's the first major Congressional action to rein in the so-called Big 3 credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian and Trans Union - and other smaller, specialized bureaus and credit scoring companies, since 2003. The Big 3 national credit bureaus have been the most complained about financial firms to the CFPB for four years running, predating the massive Equifax data breach.

As the CFPB conducts a ten-year regulatory review of the Overdraft Rule established by the pre-CFPB regulators in 2010, the UK's Financial Conduct Authority has announced sweeping changes to address what it calls a "dysfunctional" overdraft market. The US system prohibits overdraft fees on debit and ATM transactions unless you opt-in to fee-based "standard overdraft protection," but the fees average over $32 per overdraft and CFPB has accused some banks of deceptive marketing of the service. Meanwhile, the UK's FCA is banning fixed fee overdrafts and requiring UK banks to treat overdrafts as loans subject to reasonable interest rates. We've asked CFPB to ban overdrafts on debit and ATM transactions.

The media are reporting that efforts led by BigTech and BigPhone to push Congress to enact a self-serving umbrella privacy law on Capitol Hill are stalling. But that's only for now; they are still pushing hard. Pushback from legislators with stronger state laws is helping slow them down. So are the welcome efforts of civil rights colleagues to demand that digital and algorithmic decisions not discriminate. There's an important civil rights briefing later this afternoon on Capitol Hill. Learn more. 

State PIRG staff from around the country joined over 120 consumer advocates at the third annual Consumer Lobby Day today. Meetings with members of Congress and their staffs focused on protecting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's structure and funding while also opposing its current leadership's attack on a payday lending regulation drafted by its past director and his team.

Today, new CFPB director Kathy Kraninger testifies to Congress for the first time. The House Financial Services Committee will need to drill down with tough questions. Why? Kraninger's written pre-filed statement reads like an answer to a warped question from old television's Sergeant Joe Friday: "Just the irrelevant, off-point facts, ma'am." The committee should also look to the cogent testimony of consumer, civil rights, military family and student advocates also appearing today.

As the year 2018 came to an end, U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform and AFR members filed the last in in a seemingly interminable series of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Requests for Information. Although there was no clear intent to this "Data Collection" RFI, we, and allied academic scholars who filed a separate comment, both inferred it as another opportunity for industry opponents of the CFPB to attack the Bureau's consumer protection mission -- this time by challenging its collection and use of data to evaluate and respond to financial marketplace problems that harm consumers. 

Today, 7 member groups of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) asked each of their national Data Protection Authorities to investigate Google Android's smartphone locational data collection practices following an investigative report by the Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet) finding that Google may be in violation of the new European GDPR privacy law. All the groups are members of the U.S. PIRG-backed TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue, which itself  followed up on the report and EU actions with a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Meanwhile, as the Senate prepared for an afternoon FTC oversight hearing today where Facebook may be a focus, we joined leading groups in a separate letter to complain to the FTC about its biased staff report that adopts unsubstantiated industry claims in defense of an FTC call to the administration for weak baseline privacy choices.