On June 18, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a pilot advisory opinion (“AO”) program in an effort to address some uncertainty in its existing regulations and make that process more public.

The program will allow entities to seek direct guidance on uncertainties they have with regulatory requirements that the CFPB oversees. The Bureau will then select topics based on the AO program’s priorities and make the responses available to the public. The program will focus on four key priorities:

  1. Consumers are provided with timely and understandable information to make responsible decisions.
  2. Identify outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations in order to reduce regulatory burdens.
  3. Consistency in enforcement of Federal consumer financial law in order to promote fair competition.
  4. Ensuring markets for consumer financial products and services operate transparently and efficiently to facilitate access and innovation.

Issues that are the subject of an ongoing investigation or enforcement action (or the subject of an ongoing or planned rulemaking) will be the highest priority. According to the Bureau, other factors weighing on the decision to issue an AO include:

  • that the interpretive issue has been noted during prior CFPB examinations as one that might benefit from additional regulatory clarity;
  • that the issue is one of substantive importance or impact or one whose clarification would provide significant benefit; and/or
  • that the issue concerns an ambiguity that the CFPB has not previously addressed through an interpretive rule or other authoritative source.

The advisory opinions would be posted on the Bureau’s website and published in the Federal Register.

Overall, the program aims to build on the CFPB’s recent efforts in expanding its AO processes, as well as enhance the availability of the agency’s guidance to the public.

A copy of the CFPB’s announcement can be found here.

More information about the CFPB’s AO process can be found here.