The CFPB recently published its first annual Plain Writing Act Compliance Report. The report’s publication fulfills the requirement of the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (PWA) for every federal executive agency to publish by April 13, 2012 and annually thereafter, a report that describes the agency’s compliance with the PWA. The documents that must comply with the PWA include any document that provides information about any federal benefit or service or explains to the public how to comply with a federal requirement. The PWA doesn’t apply to regulations.

In the report, the CFPB states that it has adopted plain language “as a core principle” for all of its print and online materials directed to consumers. For documents directed at regulated entities, the CFPB says “it will take into account the subject expertise of the intended audience” and, if the documents have an impact on consumer behavior or understanding, the CFPB plans to publish a plain language summary. Although regulations aren’t covered by the PWA, the CFPB states that it plans to provide a plain language summary of any proposed or final consumer protection regulations it publishes.

The report describes the CFPB’s efforts to inform its staff on PWA requirements and to provide training, and includes a timeline showing the steps the CFPB has taken to implement the PWA. The CFPB also states in the report that beginning this August, it will conduct research on the CFPB’s efforts to engage consumers.

We commend what appears to be an effort by the CFPB to extend its use of plain language beyond what the PWA requires and think it should serve as a helpful complement to the CFPB’s initiatives to improve financial literacy among consumers.