The government’s consumer watchdog wants to know if you’re having a hard time accessing your financial data.
At a field hearing in Salt Lake City on Thursday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched an inquiry into the challenges consumers might face when using websites such as Mint.com, which aggregate details about consumers’ finances. The agency said it wants to know what consumers are told about how their data is shared and stored. Officials also want to know if consumers have had issues with their banks slowing down or blocking access to their data.
“We are concerned that some financial institutions have threatened to cut off the flow of information to some websites and mobile applications,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in prepared remarks. “We also hear of financial institutions that make consumers jump through so many hoops to access or authorize access to their own financial records that they are discouraged from even trying.”
The call for more information is a sign the agency is moving ahead with potential rules regulating how banks must store, protect and share consumers’ financial data, despite the major questions that have been raised about its future since the election. With Cordray’s term not up until 2018, the agency is continuing to tackle the items on its regulatory agenda — even though it’s not clear how those efforts may fare under the new presidential administration.
The CFPB and the Dodd-Frank legislation that created the agency have been marked as a target by President-elect Donald Trump. Trump has not said specifically what changes he would like to make to the consumer protection agency, but a website from his transition team says he wants to “dismantle” the Dodd-Frank Act. In the past several months, Republicans have proposed making significant changes to the way the independent agency is run or funded, including a proposal to replace the director’s slot with a five-member bipartisan commission.
Since Election Day, many government agencies have accelerated their timelines for regulations out of concern over how their offices might fare under the new administration. For instance, the Interior Department finalized a rule Tuesday that affects the oil and gas industry.
But other groups are slowing down their agendas. The head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Jo White, announced that she is stepping down two years before the end of her term. And the Federal Communications Commission has signaled that it would not be rolling out more major regulations this year.
Research is typically the first step in the CFPB’s rule-making process, which also usually involves releasing an outline of what those potential rules might look like, before regulation is officially proposed.
The agency has been busy this year, proposing rules for payday lenders and regulations that would ban financial companies from using arbitration clauses to keep customers out of class-action lawsuits. It’s unclear how these proposed rules, which would probably not be finalized until next year, will fare with a Republican in the White House and under a Republican-controlled Congress.
With its latest inquiry, the CFPB is moving to ensure that consumers can access details about their recent purchases, deposits and account balances when using third-party apps or websites that can help them budget or set other financial goals. Over the past several years, new Fintech start-ups have popped up to help consumers keep track of their bills, track spending patterns and meet other financial goals. At the field hearing, which was announced before the election, Cordray said the agency also wants to make sure the companies are storing information securely.