This morning we touched on Obama’s comments with regard to Bank of America’s controversial, $5/month debit card fee. When asked about it by George Stephonopolous, Obama said that it was stuff like this called for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
That immediately seemed wrong to us, as in, setting prices for services seemed beyond what the CFPB should be doing (we thought it was about ensuring transparency, and making sure people aren’t getting secretly screwed).
Felix Salmon, whose been a big champion of the CFPB, doesn’t even see this as a legitimate role of the organisation, and doubts that price setting like this would even be within its purview.
Instead it should do something like this:
As for the proper role of the CFPB, one thing I’m desperately looking forward to is a simple public database of all the banks offering federally-insured checking accounts, with a very easy way of comparing the features and fees of each. It would be particularly great if the CFPB could bestow some kind of gold star on the best and cheapest products, and could thereby help steer Americans away from bad accounts at megabanks, and towards much better accounts at smaller banks and credit unions.
(Although why this doesn’t exist already, privately, is a head-scratcher. It certainly could.)
Anyway, by ‘going there’ Obama has basically confirmed the worst fears about regulators (and himself) which is that business shouldn’t be regulated based on any predictable rules, but rather the whims of people who might in their gut just feel that something is wrong.
In this instance, people who scream about “uncertainty” may have a point.