On August 10, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began using an online social-media-chat-room to collect comment on proposed rules from everyday consumers. Called Regulation Room, the site is heralded on the Bureau’s website as an avenue for everyday consumers to comment on proposed rules. While this has earned the site 314 “likes” on Facebook, the CFPB is clear that it can disregard the comments entirely, a sign that it foresaw little helpful input.
Regulation Room was created by the Cornell University School of Law in Ithaca, N.Y., as part of an initiative to make public comment more accessible to people not familiar with rulemaking. As on other social media sites, commenters can share, endorse and reply to comments about proposed rules.
While the site has garnered 157 comments on the Bureau’s latest proposed rules on mortgage consumer protection, commenters haven’t had much to add and rants have been more common than informed opinions. For example, the section with the most comments contains a 490 word foreclosure story in which the commenter suggested rules already contained within the proposed rule. The CFPB moderator asked the commenter if the proposed rule would have helped in the commenter’s foreclosure experience. The commenter replied that rules are great only if they are regulated and followed, a statement that tells the CFPB nothing new.
Another commenter suggested that the CFPB should regulate banks’ credit decision when they determine which borrowers qualify for modifications. The same commenter also lamented banks’ preference to protect their investors before the borrower. However, when asked by the CFPB moderator for a suggestion to change to the current practice, the commenter did not respond.
This pattern repeats throughout the comment sections. Commenters share their negative experiences with banks but few have the technical knowledge to offer productive comment.
The Bureau foresaw this weakness. In the frequently asked questions section, the site explains that the CFPB is not required to use these comments in its rulemaking. While the CFPB is required to read a summary of the online comments, the entire online discussion is not submitted to the CFPB by Cornell University. This online discussion does not constitute legal comment, the site explains, and the CFPB can exclude both the discussion and summary from the rulemaking record.