CFPB Launches Advisory Opinion Program

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau yesterday announced that it has finalized a program where it will offer advisory opinions — guidance, essentially — to help companies in the financial services industry receive clarity where there may be some uncertainty about how to comply with a certain rule. Along with announcing the policy, the CFPB yesterday issued its first two advisory opinions, one on earned wage access products and one clarifying the definition of certain student loan products.

The CFPB announced the advisory opinion program back in March, saying it would “ensure that companies know what compliance entails and what constitutes a violation.” Once published, advisory opinions can be treated as binding guidance that companies in the financial services industry can rely on.

Advisory opinions have become a topic of conversation in the accounts receivable management industry since the CFPB released its proposed debt collection rule in October. There has been talk about submitting a request for an advisory opinion, for example, as it pertains to the limited-content message. Companies are prohibited from using their name in the limited-content message if it indicates that the debt collector is in the debt collection business. There are concerns about what words would indicate that a collector is in the debt collection business, such as recovery, credit, or receivable.

Under the program, anyone can submit a request for an advisory opinion by sending an email to advisoryopinion@cfpb.gov. As it receives requests, the CFPB said it would prioritize its responses based on those “that can legally be addressed through an interpretive rule.” Other factors that it will consider when deciding whether to issue an advisory opinion are:

  • Alignment with the Bureau’s statutory objectives
  • Size of the benefit offered to consumers by resolution of the interpretive issue
  • Known impact on the actions of other regulators
  • Impact on available Bureau resources

All of the advisory opinions will be published here.

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