Tool: The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is scheduled to be up and running in July 2011.
What it does: Its mission is twofold -- to regulate financial institutions and oversee consumer financial products, and to serve as a hub for consumer problems with financial products and institutions.
How to use: It's almost too soon to tell. But it's designed to be a one-stop shop for information, consumer protection and complaints.
Because the bureau is responsible to consumers, "you can expect to see a degree of prevention and putting an end to certain financial practices," says Ruth Susswein, a deputy director with nonprofit group Consumer Action.
Why consumers are thankful: This is a big step forward for consumers, she says. For the first time, consumers will have a department "that is required to respond to consumer complaints," says Susswein.
And it's going to make a huge difference in terms of "stamping out bad practices and telling us the truth about products -- including disclosures we can actually read," says Gail Hillebrand, financial services campaign manager for Consumers Union.