CFPB Announces Advisory Opinion Pilot Program

Under a new pilot program announced last week, credit unions and other financial institutions are now able to request an advisory opinion from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if they are uncertain about the application of bureau rules.

The agency will make certain requests and answers public in an effort to make its interpretation of rules clearer for the public.

The agency said that the pilot program will help ensure that consumers are provided with the information needed to make financial decisions and will help identify unneeded or outdated rules. The agency will not issue advisory opinions on issues that are the subject of ongoing investigations or that will be addressed in a planned rulemaking.

The bureau hopes to apply the advisory opinions to regulate in cases where there are similar facts and circumstances. As the pilot starts, the bureau is seeking public comment on the advisory decision plan.

One longtime CFPB critic already has blasted the decision, contending that through this plan the agency is trying to regulate without allowing public comment.

“The CFPB’s plan to reduce protections in areas of ‘substantive importance’ with no public input is offensive and contrary to the CFPB’s mandate,” said National Consumer Law Center Associate Director Lauren Saunders. “Now, more than ever, when communities of color are under siege, the CFPB must listen to their voices and those of all homeowners, borrowers, and families affected by financial industry abuses and put consumers first.”

Credit Union National Association officials said they strongly support agency efforts to provide clarity and that in the past, they have called on the CFPB to accept inquiries from regulated entities and to issue public responses.

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