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Bureau’s new feedback tool opens floodgates to public comments

Posted in CFPB General, CFPB Rulemaking

Back in December, the Bureau issued a notice asking the public to help it “identify provisions of the inherited regulations that the Bureau should make the highest priority for updating, modifying, or eliminating because they are outdated, unduly burdensome, or unnecessary.” (We discussed the notice in an earlier blog post [link.]) On February 16, the Bureau announced the launch of its own “Regulation Streamlining Feedback Web Tool.” The web tool, available at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/regcomments/, allows members of the public to submit comments on the regulations inherited by the Bureau, and makes it exceptionally easy, perhaps too easy, to do so.

Commenters use drop-down menus to select a regulation and, if desired, the particular section of that regulation. The form then prompts commenters to describe the changes they want to the regulations and the reasons for the suggested change. It also provides fields to explain how the proposed change would affect consumers and financial service providers. The Bureau advises that all information submitted will be published on regulations.gov, with the exception of email addresses and phone numbers, which the Bureau may publish elsewhere in aggregate form.

Commenters may provide personal and business contact information, but are openly invited to skip this section and submit their comments anonymously. This could be a useful way for stakeholders to comment without having to identify themselves, provided the comments are thoughtful enough for the Bureau to consider them. However, because there does not appear to be a control in place to prevent comments from being submitted under someone else’s name, we caution against publishing, or giving special weight to, comments submitted by any individuals (anonymously or not) purporting to be affiliated with a particular institution without first confirming the affiliation.

Because the deadline for submitting comments is March 5, we wonder why the Bureau waited until last week, right before a holiday weekend, to launch the tool if it views the tool as a way to get meaningful input. But more importantly, given the deadlines facing the Bureau for issuing the multitude of mortgage loan-related regulations required by Dodd-Frank Title XIV, we question whether the Bureau will be able to devote the resources needed to engage in any significant streamlining in the near term.