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Issue Brief: Federal Consumer Protection Agencies Must Do More to Ensure Racial Equity

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Much more must be done to advance racial equity at federal consumer protection agencies, according to a new issue brief from Public Citizen released today. All federal agencies are required to submit racial equity action plans to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget by Jan. 20.

Public Citizen’s report found that much of the work done by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection before and after President Joe Biden took office involves only reports or blogs identifying clear problems and failures that, in most cases, have yet to be remedied. The issue brief noted that much more tangible steps must be taken to advance racial equity in these agencies’ policies and programs to advance the economic wellbeing of communities of color.

“While consumer protection is not an issue often talked about in discussions of racial justice and racial equity, it is a critical issue area to address to ensure the economic inclusion of Black and Brown people in society,” the issue brief reads. “Consumer harms disproportionately impact disenfranchised communities, from ending abusive lending practices and housing discrimination that have stopped people of color from building wealth through homeownership to gaining access to credit to canceling student debt in order to help tackle the widening racial wealth gap. Improving biased consumer practices is one tool to level the playing field.”

“Reports and blogs that publicly identify systemic failures are important, but they are less helpful when they do not contain concrete steps to address problems,” said Remington A. Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights at Public Citizen. “Now, federal agencies have a unique opportunity to tackle racial inequity in everyday life that keeps Black and Brown people from fully participating in our economy. We expect that these agencies will meet the moment by writing bold action plans to address these hard problems and look forward to working hand-in-hand with them on implementation.”

Before winning the presidency, Joe Biden promised to make racial equity a priority of his administration. On his first day in office, the president signed an executive order instructing all federal agencies to evaluate their racial equity policies and outcomes, and to outline changes the agencies must make to ensure the needs of communities of color and other underserved communities are fulfilled. But much work must be done to turn Biden’s words from rhetoric into concrete change.