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Consumer bureau targets fine print

@Money February 21, 2012: 5:07 AM ET
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to improve disclosures for mortgages, credit cards and student loans.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to improve disclosures for mortgages, credit cards and student loans.

(MONEY magazine) -- The country's new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is taking aim at big financial firms and small print, while itself enduring fire inside the Beltway.

Joining the CFPB in January, director Richard Cordray quickly ordered wire-transfer companies to spell out all the costs of sending money. The lasting impact of this and other moves is unclear, given Republican attacks on both the agency's powers and the constitutionality of Cordray's appointment.

But barging ahead, the CFPB plans to improve disclosures for mortgages, credit cards, and student loans -- cornerstones of Americans' finances.

The watchdog also wants tighter reins on mortgage brokers, rules for assessing borrowers' ability to repay, and guidelines for financial advisers serving the elderly. Consumer advocates hope, too, for easier dispute resolutions at credit bureaus -- a fix with real impact, they argue, on borrowing costs.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's authority extends to key areas of Americans' finances, such as:

Credit cards: Average number of cards per cardholder 7.3

Mortgages: Average closing costs $4,070

Student debt: Average amount owed by graduates $28,100

Sources: Census Bureau, Bankrate.com, College Board

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