A Website That Works the Government Has Started One That Helps Explain Financial Regs

By Crawford, Susan | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), November 8, 2013 | Go to article overview

A Website That Works the Government Has Started One That Helps Explain Financial Regs


Crawford, Susan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Are you tired of stories about the HealthCare.gov debacle day after day? Here's another tale of government technology-building that's decidedly happier.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has just unveiled a sophisticated website aimed at making financial regulations easier to find and understand. Let's hope other agencies at every level of government take notice.

The CFPB is an independent agency dreamed up by now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2007 and authorized by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010. Its job is to help consumers get the information they need to understand the terms of their agreements with financial companies. The bureau also writes rules, supervises companies and enforces federal consumer-protection laws.

This young agency has been a technology leader. It has asked for - - and received -- extensive online help from consumers in redesigning mortgage disclosures and student financial forms to make them easier to understand. It has built an online list of about 1,000 frequently asked questions and answers on consumer finance that almost a million people have consulted. And now it is working to change the way Americans interact with the regulatory state itself.

Meet consumerfinance.gov/eregulations, rolled out last month. Texts of official government rules are notoriously difficult to follow. Multiple cross-references to other rules make it necessary to consult many different resources. Experienced rule readers can find official interpretations; others can't. CFPB's new user- friendly site makes all available information visible and easily accessible.

CFPB got designers and developers from the private sector to help build the platform in about eight months -- by offering two-year fellowships to people who want to work for a civic cause but don't see themselves as permanent government employees. By focusing on users' experience of the site, they built something that works well for real people. …

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