Proposed CFPB ‘junk fee’ study fails to meet PRA obligations

May 19, 2023

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) timing study on “junk fees” has not met the public comment obligations under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and should not receive a general clearance, CUNA and other organizations wrote to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Thursday.

A federal agency seeking to conduct a survey or collect information must obtain approval by OIRA under the PRA, which PRA requires agencies to provide two opportunities to comment on a collection request.

“The Timing Study does not fall within the limited uses that OIRA has defined for a generic clearance,” the letter reads. “The Timing Study is not a customer satisfaction survey, focus group test, or website usability survey, and the specifics of this collection can be determined before the data are to be collected. Instead, the Bureau appears intent on using the Timing Study to conduct research to inform the Bureau’s rulemakings or other policy actions.

The organizations also call for the OIRA to explicitly prohibit the CFPB from using the results of they study—if approved—to inform a rulemaking or policy action

“Putting aside questions about the legitimacy of the generic clearance process,13 we urge OIRA to enforce the limitations on use of the streamlined process and disapprove requests for collections that relate to substantive or policy issues,” the letter reads. “The failure to enforce these limitations invites agencies to ‘push the envelope’ and seek to use a generic clearance for a survey that is neither low burden nor non-substantive.”

The organizations also note it the CFPB not provided the survey instrument or any other substantive information related to the proposed collection—other than a one-sentence abstract—meaning the public cannot meaningfully provide comment on the study.