Financial Choice Act Passed By House Threatens Consumer Bureau Protection of Older Americans

For Immediate Release

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Patrice N. Snow, psnow@pirg.org, (803) 317-1181

Financial Choice Act Passed By House Threatens Consumer Bureau Protection of Older Americans

WASHINGTON - Mortgages were the leading source of 72,000 complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from consumers 62 years of age and over, followed by complaints about credit reports and debt collection, according to a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). Further, legislation that has been passed by the House and awaits Senate action is intended to cripple the Consumer Bureau and would place older consumers at greater risk of harm from financial scammers.

The bill, HR 10, the so-called Financial Choice Act, but more aptly called the “Wrong Choice Act,” rolls back the powers, funding and independence of the CFPB and it also weakens its pioneering Office for Older Americans. The bill also eliminates many other financial system reforms of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act enacted after the second-worst financial crisis in the nation’s history.

“The Consumer Bureau has already taken numerous major enforcement actions against financial firms targeting older consumers, said Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director at U.S. PIRG. “Gutting the CFPB makes it easier for financial scammers to move against older consumers, threatening their homes and retirement savings.”

Older consumers can make tempting targets for predatory behavior in the financial marketplace. Scammers may look to take advantage of their savings, home equity, or guaranteed income. Older consumers facing a savings shortfall may be harmed by low-balance or overdraft fees at banks, or be tempted to take on credit or use products such as reverse mortgages, whose risks may not be fully understood, Mierzwinski added.

“Older Americans face many challenges when it comes to homeownership, financial management and paying off medical debts, leaving them vulnerable to financial predators,” Senator Duckworth said. “That can mean the difference between enjoying a comfortable retirement and having to choose between food, housing, healthcare, transportation or other necessities. This report confirms why leaders at every level of government must work together to ensure every American has the opportunity to retire with dignity and respect,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

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U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.

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