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Mainers Need Feds to Help Ensure Consumer Protections

New England supporters of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau held a 6th Birthday party in Boston, but they warn that lobbyists are hard at work in D.C. trying to kill the agency. (MASSPIRG)
New England supporters of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau held a 6th Birthday party in Boston, but they warn that lobbyists are hard at work in D.C. trying to kill the agency. (MASSPIRG)
July 24, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine -- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turned six years old on Friday, and along with a birthday cake, New Englanders are getting a warning that could affect tens of thousands of Bay State consumers.

Janet Domenitz, executive director at the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group - or MASSPIRG - said people who are taken advantage of by credit card companies, mortgage lenders and debt collectors all have benefited from having a strong federal agency on their side since the CFPB was created.

"And in that short amount of time, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has returned nearly $12 billion to 29 million consumers that were cheated by illegal practices,” Domenitz said.

According to the CFPB,since its inception in 2011, it has handled more than 3,700 complaints from Maine consumers, including almost 300 from local military veterans. The Trump administration wants to reduce funding for the agency as part of scaling back what it sees as excessive regulations harmful to business.

Domenitz described the halls of Congress as crawling with Wall Street lobbyists who are dead-set on killing the bureau.

"The shot was already fired in the House of Representatives,” she said. "They passed the Financial Choice Act, which basically repeals the bureau's independence and eliminates most of its tools for protecting consumers."

Domenitz said 25 percent of the complaints handled for Mainers since 2011 involved debt collection, another 25 percent dealt with mortgage issues; and the rest mostly dealt with credit card and bank disputes.

The next stop for the Financial Choice Act is the U.S. Senate.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME