It's not quite Siri, but a new online question and answer tool created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is gunning to be the most comprehensive source for information about consumer products on the web.
HuffPost Money took the site for a brief spin on Thursday morning. The early review: easily the cleanest, easiest-to-use government web site we've seen, but still quite limited in terms of what information is available. So far, the site offers answers to common questions about credit cards and mortgages, and a more limited set of answers to questions about credit reports and debt collection, written by the bureau's "subject-matter experts."
All told, there are about 350 entries, on subjects like credit card pre-screening, reverse mortgages, and repairing credit scores. But the "Ask CFPB" tool was stumped when we asked about principal reduction, the recently-announced mortgage settlement, and information about specific banks and lenders.
Other questions that came up blank: "What is a fair credit card interest rate?," "How do I fight foreclosure?" and "How do I comparison shop for a mortgage?"
We plugged these same questions into Ask.com, and got hundreds of results--some from other government agencies (The Federal Reserve on mortgage shopping) from the do-everything web site ehow (steps homeowners facing foreclosure should follow), and creditcardratings.com--which offers endless advice on picking the right card.
With each miss, though, the agency invites consumer to "suggest a question" for it to answer. And websites like Ask.com require consumers to do their own due diligence about the quality of information they find--CFPB experts, presumably, are autoritative and reliable.
In a press release, the CFPB said that the bureau will expand the database to answer questions about a range of financial products and services, including student loans, auto loans and checking and savings accounts.