Consumer Watchdog Still Lacks Sharp Eye on Fine Print
April 29, 2012
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has taken steps to ensure that the information received by consumers is clearer and easier to understand, which should enable Americans to more easily compare financial products and understand contract terms. The Dodd-Frank law ensured that the agency could help Americans become savvier purchasers of credit cards, student loans, and mortgages, among other financial products as a means of preventing another financial crisis. In July the CFPB is expected to issue a simpler form to help consumers understand and compare mortgage loan terms, including loan amount, interest rate and whether the interest rate could rise, prepayment penalties, and whether there are balloon payments. Supporters say that the forms also clearly explain the monthly amount borrowers would owe and services they can shop for, including pest inspections, courier fees, and title insurance, in an effort to save money. However, critics say the agency should do more to improve explanations of what settlement fees are for and whether they are required. These critics suggest that lenders should be required to speed up delivery of final loan terms, giving paperwork to borrowers at least three days before closing. Additional improvements are being called for in credit card forms and student loan agreements.
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