CFPB Opens Inquiry Into Mobile Financial Services’ Impact On Low-Income Consumers

Is the convenience of mobile banking leaving underserved and unbanked consumers in the dust? That’s an issue that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking into.

On Wednesday, the CFPB opened an inquiry [PDF] into the opportunities and challenges associated with the use of mobile financial services by asking consumers and businesses to provide information regarding their use of the products.

“In a world where people can manage their money on the go, there is great potential to serve more consumers and allow them to take greater control of their finances,” CFPB director Richard Cordray says in a new release. “But we need to make sure all consumers are protected whether they are opening their wallets or scanning the screen on their smartphones.”

A recent Federal Reserve study found that 74,000 consumers began using mobile banking services each day last year. Consumers can process a number of transaction through mobile banking including transferring funds between accounts, monitoring account balances and depositing checks.

The Bureau’s inquiry specifically addresses how the use of mobile payment products can be used to improve the financial lives of underserved consumers, who may include younger consumers, those with low-income, or those who live in locations without easy access to traditional banking.

The following issues will be addressed through the CFPB’s request for information:

Access to the underserved – The Bureau is looking at the ways that mobile technologies could expand access to financial services. Specifically, the Bureau is seeking information on whether using mobile devices opens up options in financial services and money management for unbanked and underserved consumers and whether these options are cheaper than traditional financial services.

Real-time money management – How can mobile products and services be used as a tool to help consumers manage their money while making spending decisions.

Customer service – The Bureau will explore what types of customer service or technical assistance are available to consumers using mobile products. Additionally, the Bureau will determine what kinds of protections are available to consumers if they were to lose their device or get cut off from cell or internet service.

Privacy concerns and data breaches – Mobile banking consists of using consumers’ sensitive personal information, the Bureau will determine what kind of information these companies are collecting on consumers, how it is being disclosed to consumers, and how the information is being used.

Comments on the issue will be received until September 9.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Launches Inquiry Into Mobile Financial Services [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]