The Wiki Consumer Watchdog

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Guess who is going to help the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau do its job? You, the average consumer, that’s who.

Elizabeth Warren, recently appointed by the president to lead the agency, had this to say in an interview with the National Journal:

Warren said new techniques like crowd-sourcing — scaled-up variations on Wikipedia — make it possible to collect valuable information from millions of ordinary consumers who report problems as they arise. Using new systems to organize and find patterns in all that information, Warren said, the bureau could be able to spot new enforcement targets in a matter of days — an unheard-of response time for traditional regulators.

How exactly will a centralized complaint system work in real life? It’s too early to say. But clearly, the web—obviously the fastest means of spreading critical, timely info—will be involved, as it should. Once there’s a reliable system in place allowing people to communicate in a time-sensitive, trustworthy forum, and once there’s an agency capable of reacting quickly to scams and regulation violations, Warren says:

“In a sense, the whole notion of how markets work will change.”