Your New Financial Watchdog: What it Can Do

Consumers now have new advocate. As of July 21, 2011, a new federal agency opened for business as a watchdog over the myriad financial products on the market.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created under the far-reaching Wall Street reform law passed in 2010, has broad powers to police how banks, credit unions, debt collectors, payday lenders and other financial services companies conduct business with their customers. If products or services are unfair or deceptive, consumers will have a single place to turn for help -- rather than as many as seven different regulators.

But it is very much a work in progress. At its launch Thursday, the bureau is leaderless, though President Obama has nominated Richard Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, as its first director. Cordray will have to be approved by the Senate to take office.

A long list of issues await him, or whoever eventually heads the agency. Here is an alphabetical list of payment industry services and practices that the new consumer watchdog is scheduled to have jurisdiction over and what it may do about them.

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