Just Economy Conference – May 14, 2021
Households and communities with low incomes, and particularly communities of color, have long been targets of unfair, deceptive and predatory business practices. Largely unregulated products and services such as debt collection, paid tax preparation and alternative lending are pervasive – regularly resulting in cycles of increasing debt and greater financial instability around the country. Similarly, local services like towing and booting, employment agencies and home contractors operating with limited oversight frequently take advantage of vulnerable consumers, many of whom do not have access to any sort of recourse. While there are active consumer protection efforts at the federal- and state-levels, they tend to focus on pursuing high-impact prosecutions and rarely address individual or more local concerns. However, local governments have an original mandate to promote public welfare and have inherent police power to protect residents. With inspiration from the work of New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs, the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund has partnered with nine local governments and their community stakeholders over the past three years to identify and begin implementing infrastructure that addresses key local consumer protection concerns.
This session will demonstrate the significant role that municipal and county governments can play in directly addressing predatory business practices and provide a pathway to justice for consumers through complaint mediation, regulation and enforcement authority. It will also highlight the critical importance and process of engaging local community stakeholders in the process of defining and implementing an effective strategy.