The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced late last week a new program that will allow residents of Newark, N.J. to use a local government hotline to connect directly to Consumer Response, the Bureau’s complaint collection system.

Newark residents can be connected to the CFPB by dialing 4311 under the pilot announced last Thursday. In Newark, 4311 is a non-emergency phone line residents can call to access their local city services. With the pilot-program announcement, Newark residents who call 4311 with a question or complaint about consumer financial products or services will be transferred to the Bureau’s Consumer Response team.

“The CFPB’s job is to help consumers navigate the often confusing financial marketplace and to hold financial institutions accountable,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Through this coordination, we will be able to reach and to help consumers who may not have found us otherwise.”

“This administration has been heavily engaged in the area of financial empowerment for our residents,” Newark Mayor Cory Booker said in a statement. “It was a natural connection that as a ‘City for Financial Empowerment,’ that we make that connection for our residents to [the CFPB's] hotline.”

Nestled in the New York City metropolitan area, Newark has nearly 300,000 residents.

The Bureau has previously announced information-sharing arrangements with local governments, but this is the first public coordination with a local hotline that would connect consumers directly to Consumer Response.

Consumer Response screens complaints for completeness, jurisdiction, and non-duplication. Complaints that meet these criteria are then sent to the company (bank or nonbank) for review and response. Companies are given 15 days to provide a response and are expected to close all but the most complicated complaints within 60 days. Consumers can log into the CFPB’s website to check the status of their complaint and to provide feedback about the company’s response.

The CFPB began accepting consumer complaints on credit cards on July 21, 2011. The Bureau has since expanded that capacity and now also accepts complaints about mortgages, bank products and services, consumer loans, student loans, and credit reporting. According to various reports, Consumer Response will begin collecting complaints on debt collection in the second quarter of this year.


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