NO COMPLAINTS WANTED

Consumers Corner # 20

 

Why consumers need
protection by the CFPB

 By Jim Murphy

If you’ve ever wondered why many big businesses hate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) so much, consider these stories.

 

  • John Lukach, a 25-year-old social worker, told the Wall Street Journal he contacted Navient Corp. “probably four to five times” to try to reduce his $730 a month student loan payments. With Navient’s “help,” his monthly bill actually went up. Finally, he filed a complaint with CFPB. Two days later, Navient called, offering him several repayment options.

 

  • “CBS Sunday Morning” reported a similar positive consumer result. Harry Boras, the father of a 19-year-old soldier, complained about a used car loan his son Ari took out through the Military Installment Loans and Educational Services (MILES).

 

Ostensibly, the program was to help teach soldiers how to buy responsibly. Since the monthly car payment was deducted from Boras’ paycheck, it also appeared to be a government program.

Moreover,  the dealership walls included handshaking photos of the car dealers with the post commander and battalion commanders – all in full uniform.

In actuality, it was predatory and misleading lending. Boras’ loan was at 18.5 percent interest. In essence, “he had unwittingly agreed to pay three times the blue book value of the truck over the lifetime of the contract,” the TV program said. So much for helping teach service members to buy responsibly. What it should have taught them was: Buyer Beware, even if it looks like a government-sponsored program.

The result: The CFPB got refunds for Ari and 50,000 other military members who had signed up for similar loans. U.S. Bank and Dealers’ Financial Services were ordered to return $6.5 million to the service members.

Unfortunately, the CFPB is under constant attack by companies who spend millions of dollars a year lobbying our legislators. Now they hope to muzzle consumer complaints by making them private.

Interestingly, companies’ names are not published by CFPB until they respond – or after 15 days – whichever comes first.

But businesses don’t want any bad publicity, no matter how much they deserve it. And they are trying to restrict consumer rights.

In just four years, the number of complaints CFPB received  jumped from 72,370 in 2012, the Wall Street Journal says, to 191,519 in 2016. Most telling, 97% of consumers receive a response within 15 days of filing,  CFPB says. So if you file a complaint, you are very likely to get a response.

Not only that, the more complaints received about a specific company, the higher its chances of being fined.

After receiving 45,710 complaints for illegal sales practices, Wells Fargo & Co., for example, was fined $185 million. Good!

Of course, big business wants to keep you from knowing who the biggest offenders are. So it’s behind a bill with the noble-sounding title: the “Fair Choice Act.”

If it were called what it really is, the title would  be the “Protect the Guilty” Act.

The bill, pushed by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, has already passed in the House. Now it is in the Senate.

Hopefully, the Senate will not allow the CFPB to be defanged. But it could. And that would really hurt consumers’ ability to get action.

So if you see publicity about this bill, please contact your U.S. Senator. And tell him or her you want to save the CFBP.

In the current government climate, we don’t have many people on the side of consumers. And we need all the help we can get.

 

A lesson from London
on safety regulations

 

If you’re a business owner, you love to complain about too much regulation. As Geico’s humorous radio commercials says, “It’s what you do.”

But beware of politicians who want to “free businesses from the burden of safety regulations.”

That was the term used in a New York Times article about the deadly Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in London last June, in which 12 people died. And it’s a story worth telling.

To start with, the 24-story building reportedly lacked essentials like sprinklers, fire alarms and fire escapes. Plus it had just one staircase.

But the critical mistake appears to have been the use of flammable materials on the building’s façade, which helped spread the blaze.

Flammable materials are not permitted in the US over a certain height, the New York Times says. But they are in England. What’s more, the refrigerator that evidently started the London fire had plastic parts in the back. In the U.S., similar models typically are made of metal.

Despite warnings from safety experts and deadly examples of similar high-rise fires in Britain, Australia, France, China and the United Arab Emirates, flammable cladding  that was cheaper and possibly provided architects with more attractive choices was used in this building.

Metro UK estimates that 87 other tower blocks are made of similar aluminum composite material in London. Wonder how the people who live there feel about their safety?

The next time you hear politicians say they are freeing business from regulations, think about how those changes will affect you. And hope that some government officials along the line will make your safety a priority.

 

NOTABLE NUMBERS

10

Number of years since the breakthrough iPhone was invented, putting a camera in just about every hand and changing many of our lives forever.

 

1.2 billion

Number of iPhones Apple has sold in those 10 years

 

87

Percent of Apple devices running the latest IOS or operating system, compared to 13 percent of Android users. One explanation: “Apple issues its own software updates,” says the New York Times, while Android makers must coordinate theirs with carriers – a more complex, time-consuming process to get the latest security enhancements.

Source: New York Times

 

PHILLY FUN FACT

A unique bas relief of George II, king of England when Christ Church was built, is visible on the outside of the building on Second Street, above the Palladian window. “It is believed to be the only surviving outdoor depiction of any English royalty on any public buildings in what were the American colonies.”

Source: USHistory.org

 

Photo Credit

“shh” flickr photo by Raquel Camargo https://flickr.com/photos/raquelcamargo/3296054642 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

 

Jim Murphy is a direct marketing copywriter who has run his own consulting business since 2004. For nine years, he wrote and edited “Choices,” an award-winning credit union magazine with a circulation of 80,000. He also is a certified member of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guide and writes historical articles for the Queen Village Neighbors Association magazine.

Any comments made are Jim’s opinion, and not necessarily those of the Old Pine Community Center.

 

 

 

 

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