Consumer and Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra said that he and his staff “pore over” inflation data to understand how rising prices will impact the consumer financial industry, the regulator oversees during an interview with the Washington Post Thursday.
“Top on the list and the components of inflation we see is related to automobiles,” Chopra said. “Auto loans outstanding in the U.S. are already well over $1 trillion, and I expect that we might see that get even higher and more and more Americans are looking to buy cars, but they’re finding them to be very expensive.”
“Looking at auto lending, making sure that people can shop around, refinance and navigate a competitive market is very key when thinking about the total cost of ownership over a car,” he added.
Annual consumer-price inflation rose to 7.5% in January, according to a Thursday report from the Labor Department, driven in part by a record 12% rise in the prices of new cars and trucks, the fastest increase on record.
“Obviously there are other components of inflation that may drive increases in credit card debt,” Chopra added. “I’m very concerned that consumers don’t always face a competitive market when it comes to interest rates on their credit cards.”
The CFPB recently announced that it was seeking information about what it has labeled “junk fees” charged by banks, credit unions, mortgage and other loan servicers, and Chopra said that this investigation is made even more important by the general rise in prices consumers are experiencing elsewhere in the economy.