On February 14, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) published a blog discussing improvements made to its services with the goal of providing the same experience to consumers with limited English proficiency (LEP) that its English-speaking consumers receive. These improvements include redesigned website landing pages in seven languages and the ability to accept complaints in 180 different languages.

To inform these changes, over the last year the CFPB conducted focus groups in Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese to learn about people’s experiences with the U.S. financial system and most common financial issues. The Bureau also conducted interviews with organizations that provide assistance on financial matters to LEP consumers. Lastly, the CFPB administered usability tests of its translated resources to ensure they were easy to use.

From these efforts they learned:

  • Focus group participants prefer mobile-friendly webpages with less dense text and more images and videos;
  • Consumers are looking for introductory information on basic topics about how the U.S. banking and financial systems work;
  • Translated content should be presented in plain language rather than using formal or technical terms;
  • Adding English reference words or commonly used acronyms in parentheses allows consumers to look up the proper meaning of terms; and
  • Mirroring webpage layouts across languages can help multilingual consumers compare content.

In response to this feedback, the CFPB redesigned its website landing pages in Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Tagalog, and Vietnamese to make them easier to navigate, provide resources about the banking and financial systems, and to include commonly used financial terms and acronyms. These pages also include information about the CFPB’s complaint process.

As we discussed here, over the last year the Bureau’s stance about financial institutions’ responsibility to serve LEP consumers has shifted from more permissive to mandatory. We view this most recent blog post as further evidence of this shift. We also believe that the CFPB’s observations from its focus group exercise and the changes the Bureau made to its own website should be considered by financial institutions in connection with their own LEP efforts. We will continue to watch this issue as it develops.