Six months after it first announced its pilot program, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) officially launched its Advisory Opinion Program by finalizing its advisory opinion policy yesterday. The policy is designed to provide clarity in areas where there might be regulatory uncertainty.
The advisory opinion program is of special interest to the debt collection agency. With the recent release of its final debt collection rule—Regulation F—the CFPB specifically cited the advisory opinion program as a place for debt collectors to seek clarification of the new requirements and safe harbors. The final rule is a tremendous document that took roughly seven years to finalize, but it is also complex as it seeks to bring current an outdated statute, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. With such an overhaul, questions are bound to present themselves as debt collectors begin the process of implementing the rule's requirements.
According to the CFPB's final advisory opinion policy, "any person or entity" can submit a request for an advisory opinion by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The policy adds:
[W]hen selecting requests for consideration, the Bureau will prioritize open questions within the Bureau’s purview that can legally be addressed through an interpretive rule. The Bureau intends to further evaluate potential topics for advisory opinions based on additional factors, including: alignment with the Bureau’s statutory objectives; size of the benefit offered to consumers by resolution of the interpretive issue; known impact on the actions of other regulators; and impact on available Bureau resources.
Launching the program in full stride, the CFPB issued its first two advisory opinions on the same day that it announced its final policy. The two opinions—unrelated to debt collection—were for issues related to earned wage access products and the refinancing and consolidation of pre-existing federal student loans.
The Bureau established a page on its website dedicated to the Advisory Opinion Program. The page will list all released advisory opinions. The page can be found here.