The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) today released the fourth report in its Municipal Financial Empowerment: A Supervitamin for Public Programs series about the “supervitamin effect” of integrating financial empowerment and asset building strategies into core social services. Strategy #4: Targeting Consumer Financial Protection Powers outlines how cities can leverage local consumer protection strategies, including consumer protection laws and advocacy through outreach and education, to protect and financially empower their residents.
“In April, the CFPB announced a partnership to replicate the DCA model in cities around the country and this new report offers formalized ways that the regulatory work of this agency has helped protect New Yorkers with low and moderate income,” said Commissioner Jonathan Mintz. “The Bloomberg Administration has leveraged significant powers and opportunities to protect and empower New Yorkers in the financial services marketplace and we hope this Report will benefit other cities that look to do the same for their residents.”
The first three Supervitamin reports document the City’s efforts to integrate professional financial counseling into key social services; professionalize the field of financial counseling to ensure quality and consistency in service delivery; and increase access to mainstream banking accounts by incorporating them into public programs.
Strategy #4 outlines ways in which New York City has harnessed consumer financial protection powers to enhance the effectiveness of public programs. To protect the most vulnerable consumers in the financial marketplace, DCA uses a three-pronged approach to consumer protection:
- Municipal Consumer Protection Regulations. DCA uses its ability to license and regulate industries like debt collectors, process servers, used car dealers, tax preparers and home improvement contractors, which can negatively impact consumers’ financial stability. Consumers can file complaints with DCA, which the Department can mediate and use its authority to secure consumer restitution and even revoke a business’ license.
- Outreach and Education to Businesses and Consumers. DCA has conducted a series of citywide public awareness campaigns under the umbrella “Protect Your Money” that encourage New Yorkers to take advantage of City services, protect their money by avoiding predatory proprietary schools and debt settlement services. Such campaigns elicit consumer complaints, which help DCA focus enforcement and mediation efforts on potentially pernicious industries and particular bad players.
- Consumer Advocacy. New York City has worked with State and federal partners to successfully advocate for consumer protections against such predatory practices as payday loans and bank account garnishment.
DCA enforces the Consumer Protection Law and other related business laws throughout New York City. Empowering consumers and businesses to ensure a fair and vibrant marketplace, DCA licenses about 79,000 businesses in 55 different industries. Through targeted outreach, partnerships with community and trade organizations, and informational materials, DCA educates consumers and businesses alike about their rights and responsibilities. The DCA Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) was launched by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at the end of 2006 as the first local government initiative in the country with the specific mission to educate, empower, and protect individuals and families with low incomes. OFE creates innovative programs, products, and services for New Yorkers so they can build assets and make the most of their financial resources. Our goal is to increase access to high-quality, low-cost financial education and counseling; connect individuals to safe and affordable mainstream banking and products and services; improve access to income-boosting tax credits, savings, and other asset building opportunities; and enforce and improve consumer financial protections to safeguard financial stability. For more information, call 311 or visit DCA online at nyc.gov/consumers.
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