As a child of South Asian immigrants, I recall my parents frequently sending money back to our family and friends in India. Because so much depended on its receipt, my parents were uneasy about the transaction until they knew the money was in the right hands. Their unease was not unwarranted.
My parents had no control over how the money got there. When my parents used a service to send money, they never fully understood the process, were charged numerous, unexplained fees, and felt powerless if any errors were made. At times they resorted to sending cash by mail, an option that was not especially secure.
Unfortunately, other immigrant families and other consumers who must send remittance transfers have had similar experiences; which is why advocates have been calling for greater protections around these transfers of money, or remittance transfers. Now, with direction from Congress through the Dodd-Frank Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has changed that. The CFPB adopted new rules that will go into effect in February 2013. These rules will generally make the costs of remittances clear and hold remittance transfer providers accountable for certain errors.
Better Disclosures: Under this rule, remittance transfer providers must generally disclose the exchange rate, any fees related to the remittance, the amount of money that will be delivered abroad, and the date the money will be available. Certain disclosures must be provided both before and after the consumer pays for a remittance transfer. Consumers will generally receive these disclosures in English and sometimes in other languages. The CFPB thinks the clarity provided by these disclosures will help inform consumer decisions and instill confidence.
Option to Cancel: Typically, consumers will have at least 30 minutes after payment to cancel a remittance. If they cancel within the 30 minute window, they will get their money back, whether they make a mistake, change their minds, or feel something isn’t right.
Correction of Errors: With this rule, remittance transfer providers will generally be held accountable for errors. If a remittance sender reports a problem with a transfer within 180 days, the provider must generally investigate and correct errors. Companies that provide remittance transfers may also be responsible for mistakes made by their agents. The CFPB believes this will encourage remittance transfer providers to use reliable agents and partners in the U.S. and abroad, helping to weed out the bad actors.
As a lifelong advocate for immigrant communities, I am very proud that the first final rulemaking adopted by the CFPB addresses this issue and brings new protections to many consumers who, like my family, continue to send money to family members, loved ones, and others abroad.
(Nick Rathod is Assistant Director for Intergovernmental and International Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The article was posted on March 26, on the White House blog.)